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National Restaurant Association - Recycling all material beats polystyrene ban, FPI’s Dyer says

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Recycling all material beats polystyrene ban, FPI’s Dyer says

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg should work with restaurant operators to recover and recycle all types of foodservice packaging rather than proposing a polystyrene ban, Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, said.

Dyer, whose organization partnered with the National Restaurant Association to promote sustainable foodservice packaging recovery, said the mayor should increase the amount of waste material that is recycled, but he is going about achieving that goal in a less-than-productive way.

“We applaud Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to increase recycling in New York City, but suggesting that a ban on foam foodservice packaging will help because it’s ‘virtually impossible to recycle’ is misguided,” she said. “New York City should consider ways it can work with restaurant operators and others to recover foodservice packaging instead of limiting packaging because of material. If the mayor wants evidence of how this can work, look to California where more than 65 cities, including Los Angeles, have opted to add foam foodservice packaging to their curbside recycling programs instead of banning it.”

Dyer, who heads up the trade association representing foodservice packaging in North America, noted that, based on FPI research, nearly half of all foodservice packaging ends up at the consumer’s home so the city ought to examine where much of the packaging comes from.

“Based on our research, nearly half of all foodservice packaging ends up back in someone’s home,” she said. “People often get their meals, snacks or drinks to go, and that means only about a quarter of the packaging stays in the restaurant. One option that would have the greatest impact is to simply include paper and plastic foodservice packaging on the list of allowed products in the city’s recycling program.”

The city would achieve more success in improving its recycling rate if it teamed up with the foodservice industry to work on foodservice packaging recovery rather than calling for a ban on polystyrene packaging, she said.

“Now is the time for us to work together to connect the dots and identify operational barriers, information gaps and consumer behavior challenges toward collecting more packaging materials for recycling,” Dyer said. “The reality is that very few foodservice packaging materials – regardless of what they are made of – end up in the recycling bin today and banning a material won’t change that reality. We must educate the public on the importance of recycling and diverting waste from the landfill.”

Dyer’s call for the city to work with the restaurant industry echoed the NRA’s recent statements indicating that collaboration on the packaging issue would achieve better results for everyone involved.

“The National Restaurant Association supports increased use of sustainable packaging and would appreciate the opportunity to work with the city on the mayor’s latest proposal regarding foodservice packaging and restaurants, developing a plan that is feasible for the industry to implement and cost effective for operators and consumers,” Scott DeFife, the Association’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said Feb. 14, the day the mayor announced his intention to seek a polystyrene ban.

According to Dyer, government involvement in the packaging marketplace would do nothing but limit available options, and that would be bad for restaurant operators, she said. Instead, she added, they should be able to select packaging that best suits their operational and environmental needs.

“Any government intervention in the marketplace that limits packaging options is bad news for restaurateurs,” she said. “Foodservice operators should be allowed to select packaging based on its own merits of product performance and suitability, price competitiveness and, of course, impact on the environment. Without limitation, materials compete in the market place, and this helps to keep costs down and drive innovations. The options should be kept open so restaurateurs can decide which package, or material, best meets their needs and the needs of their customers.”

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