“A paper cup is not a paper cup. It’s a cup with an oil coating on it, so it’s not recyclable,” he states. “The studies that we’ve done show that not only does that not work (switching to paperboard) from a litter standpoint. But you increase greenhouse gas, you increase the amount of waste generated. … Styrofoam is 95 percent air.”
He asserts that most of the proposed substitutes are heftier products, therefore they require more fuel to truck to the landfill. Also, Levy pushes the fact that Styrofoam doesn’t take up as much space as other presumed Styro replacements would – forget that it takes hundreds of years to decompose.
“So you’re also sacrificing performance,” Levy reasons. “When people put on a cardboard sleeve or an extra insulator on
their paper coffee cup, that can’t be good for the environment either…” Thusly, Levy side-steps the core issue: whether or not Styrofoam is dangerous to the environment.
Mark Westlund, spokesperson for the environmental department in San Francisco, which banned the use of Styrofoam and plastic clamshell containers last summer, says Levy’s statements are plain inaccurate.
“He’s dead wrong. We recycle paper board all the time. But you can’t recycle polystyrene. It’s not recyclable
anywhere,” he says.
Westlund also rejects the plastics industry argument that the problems posed by Styrofoam can be solved by enforcing existing litter laws or changing the behavior of people who litter.
“But it’s not their fault – that’s what the plastics industry always says: It’s not their responsibility,
it’s the people’s. And that’s why we pick up after them. … If Styrofoam were recyclable, compostable or
biodegradable, then we’d use it,” Westlund says, noting that 80 percent of San Francisco’s restaurants have complied with the Styrofoam ban and seem to have no problem with it (and the city hasn’t written a single ticket).