Legal, Plastic Pollution, Expanded Polystyrene Foam
February 23 2016

Florida Foam Bans Threatened

by Staley Prom

Just as cities like Orlando, Florida – the state’s third largest metropolitan area – are on the verge of banning expanded polystyrene (“EPS” or “Styrofoam”TM) products, Big Foam is trying to keep it in the state.

Last month, with virtually no notice or opportunity for public comment, Florida Representative Raburn filed an amendment to House Bill 7007, a general bill regarding the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (the “Department”), which would preempt local regulation of foam in restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores.  Specifically, this would mean that no Florida cities or counties could ban or regulate foam foodware if they haven’t already done so by January 1, 2016, leaving regulation to the Department.  Unfortunately, the House passed HB 7007, as amended, on February 10th.

Meanwhile, today, an amendment was filed to the Senate companion bill, S 1010, which includes similar foam preemption language, preempting local regulation of foam, except for ordinances enacted before January 1, 2016.

Some Florida cities like Miami Beach, Bal Harbour, and Key Biscayne have already banned foam, and so while those would continue to be enforced, there could be no new local bans.

Thus, Surfrider is urging Senators not to take away cities’ rights to ban foam.   

The problem is, EPS foam is a petroleum based plastic, used in many disposable food containers, which is rarely recycled, frequently littered, and never biodegrades. Because of its lightweight nature, foam containers frequently blow out of trashcans and garbage trucks, and make their way to storm drains, retention ponds, waterways and our beaches.  As shown in this video featuring Florida Representative David Richardson it also frequently ends up caught in the Florida mangroves.  It is a known lab animal carcinogen and a reasonably anticipated human carcinogen. Thus, cities and counties should have the right to ban polystyrene foam, in order to protect the health and welfare of their residents, waterways, and beaches. 

Foam has already been banned in dozens of California cities, in Washington D.C., and in several cities in Oregon, Massachusetts, and New York, among others.

However, this is not the first time foam bans have been met with challenge from the foam industry.  Having been challenged by foam manufacturers, including Dart Container Corporation, restaurants, etc., last September, a New York lower court struck down New York City’s foam ban, which required the New York Department of Sanitation Commissioner first finding that recycling for EPS foam was not environmentally effective, economically feasible, or safe.  The judge found that the Commissioner’s determination that EPS wasn’t recyclable, was arbitrary and capricious, citing to one of Dart’s (one of the world’s biggest EPS manufacturers) proposals to purchase equipment and provide EPS recycling – even though the company had shown no actual existing ability to do so, and was effectively creating a market to circumvent the New York law.

What’s more, in the fight to keep our ocean and waterways foam-free, we are up against Big Foam corporations like Dart, who host websites like “gofoam.com” touting the “benefits” and “environmental responsibility” of the toxic, polluting substance. 

The fact is, EPS is rarely recycled, is often littered or ends up in our waterways, and leaches toxic chemicals. Cities and counties should have the ability to regulate and ban EPS, in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents, and marine environments.

As for Florida, Surfrider continues to urge the Senate not to pass any legislation that would take away Florida municipalities’ right to ban foam.  Florida residents, click here to send a letter to your Florida Senator.