In the US, a considerable number of cities and counties have passed ordinances banning foodservice disposables made from polystyrene foam. Some localities have even banned a wider range of consumer products made of polystyrene foam, such as beach and pool toys, coolers, egg containers, and marine navigation markers. While polystyrene foam bans have not made a large impact on total US demand yet, an increase in bans throughout the US by municipalities and foodservice companies could impact sales in the future.
California Leads US
As with many other environmental issues, particularly dealing with plastic waste, cities in California have pioneered bans on polystyrene foam. Of the estimated more than 100 US cities and counties that have enacted various types of polystyrene foam bans, most are in California. Californians’ environmental activism stems in part from decades of issues with air and water pollution. The smog in Los Angeles is infamous, while the state’s extensive coastline, prized for tourism and real estate value, often has garbage wash ashore. In addition, California is a large state with many cities of considerable size, thus boosting the impact of its presence in the list of municipalities banning foam. Proposals for wide-ranging statewide bans on numerous foam applications have also been introduced in California but have been unsuccessful. However, starting in 2017 California banned sales of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam loose-fill (e.g., packing peanuts) unless it contains 100% recycled material.
Efforts Spread Throughout US & Globally
As more people become aware of the effects of polystyrene foam on the environment, an increasing number of cities are banning single-use polystyrene foam products. For example:
- In November 2018, Charleston, South Carolina approved a ban on foam containers, effective in 2020. The city’s estimated population as of 2017 was 135,000.
- A ban on single-use polystyrene foam products goes into effect in New York City in January 2019, after the city was cleared to do so following a lawsuit seeking to stop the ban. New York City is the most highly populated city in the US, with an estimated population of 8.6 million people in 2017.
- In October 2018, San Diego city council voted for a polystyrene foam ban, which would become effective in January 2019 if they vote to do so a second time in January, as is expected. San Diego’s population is estimated at 1.4 million people as of 2017.
- Washington, DC implemented a ban on foam in the foodservices sector in January 2016; the district has a population of 700,000.
Furthermore, in response to consumer pressure, many companies have already or in the near future plan to replace foam cups with substitutes such as double-walled paper cups or other types of plastic cups. For instance, Dunkin’ Brands Group plans to finish switching to double-walled paper cups throughout its global chain of stores in 2020. The company’s new cup was designed to mimic the appearance of the previous foam cup to ease the conversion for consumers. In addition, McDonald’s plans to eliminate use of foam packaging for food and beverages throughout its global locations in 2019.
For more insights into the US polystyrene resin industry, see Polystyrene: United States, a report published by the Freedonia Focus Reports division of The Freedonia Group. This report forecasts to 2022 US polystyrene resin demand and shipments in pounds and demand in nominal US dollars at the producer level. Total demand in pounds is segmented by form in terms of:
- crystal (solid)
Total demand in pounds is also segmented by market as follows:
- consumer and institutional
- building products
- electrical and electronic
- other markets such as furniture and furnishings, industrial machinery, and transportation
To illustrate historical trends, total demand, total shipments, the various segments, and trade are provided in annual series from 2007 to 2017.
Recycled polystyrene resin is excluded from the scope of this report. Re-exports of polystyrene resin are excluded from demand and trade figures.
Key macroeconomic indicators are also provided with quantified trends. Other various topics, including profiles of pertinent leading suppliers, are covered in this report. A full outline of report items by page is available in the Table of Contents.
Related Focus Reports include:
About the Author
Leon Mengri is a Senior Market Research Analyst with Freedonia Focus Reports. He conducts research and writes a variety of Focus Reports, which offer concise overviews of market size, product segmentation, business trends, and more.