The impact consumer products have on the environment has become a worldwide issue. According to NPR , Kenya has imposed a countrywide ban on plastic bags that is punishable by jail time because of the devastating effects the bags are having on polluting their environment. The bags are everywhere from hanging from trees to clogging up canals. “It is a toxin that we must get rid of,” Judi Wakhungu, the country’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, told reporters. “It’s affecting our water. It’s affecting our livestock and, even worse, we are ingesting this as human beings.” The contamination is so wide spread that the Eastern African Community has considered a ban for the entire region.
Our oceans are also being affected. It is estimated that an average of eight million tons of plastic escapes collection systems polluting the environment and eventually the ocean. What makes the plastic even more toxic is that the sunlight and ocean currents will break it down into microplastics, ending up in the marine food chain and then into the bodies of anyone who eats it, including humans.
As of July 1, 2015 California became the first state to impose a statewide ban on single use plastic bags, and other states are looking to follow suit.
Plastic bags are not the only product legislators are imposing stricter regulations. Expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) has already been banned in many cities across the nation from Seattle to New York. How does this affect the food industry? They have had to find alternative food and beverage containers for serving their customers or to use for their to-go items.
There is a new push to ban other plastic products such as: polyethylene bags, polystyrene utensils, polystyrene lids, and many others.
In lieu of this proposed ban, a large coffee chain has already made the switch from using PS hot cup lids and is instead using PP hot cup lids. Manufacturer Lollicup USA Inc. is making preparations to discontinue making the PS hot cup lids altogether and will be making PP lids. “This is the trend of the future,” said their CEO Alan Yu.
The price difference is only pennies, but the benefits are vast. The first one being that PS can only be used once while PP is fully recyclable and can be recycled multiple times into different applications such as: buckets, caps, automotive applications, and more. In addition, PP has low density and does not use water during the dyeing process, reducing the environmental impact.
“PP is more heat resistant than PS, more environmentally friendly, and leaves less of a carbon foot print,” said Yu.
Leaving less of a carbon foot print is becoming more important not only with legislators, but with industry leaders. In the end, however, people will vote with their dollars.