American Recycler News, Inc.


Study shows foam food containers make up 1.5 percent of litter

Commonly used polystyrene foam food service products (typically referred to as Styrofoam™) make up 1.5 percent of litter, according to a new report that surveys recent studies on litter.

The May 2012 report by environmental consulting firm Environmental Resources (ER) Planning of Gaithersburg, Maryland, “examined a variety of litter surveys to determine the extent to which polystyrene foam food service products contribute to litter.”

ER Planning compiled information from 19 litter surveys conducted in the U.S. and Canada from 1994 to 2009, including a 2008 national survey of 240 sites. The firm reviewed surveys that used statistically valid quantification and characterization methodologies.

The report finds that polystyrene foam food service products “consistently constitute a small portion of litter (1.5 percent). Evaluating just the surveys conducted since 2000 yields an even lower median value of 1.1 percent.”

The report’s project manager – Steven R. Stein – is a subject matter expert on litter, recycling and environmental issues. His work studying litter and its impacts on our communities has been featured in The New York Times and National Geographic, as well as on NPR and Good Morning America. Field crews under his direction have physically surveyed litter along more than 15.5 million square feet of roadways and recreational areas.

He led the 2009 KAB National Litter Survey, the most comprehensive study of its kind and sponsored the 2011 National Litter Forum, which focused on restoring our nation’s communities. Stein has taught Environmental Science and Ethics in Management at the university level.

The report was underwritten by the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Foodservice Packaging Group.