It’s going to be a costly move away from polystyrene containers. This month, New Jersey saw P.L. 2020, c117 go into effect. The new law forbids the use of single-use plastic bags and polystyrene food containers. Every sector of the food industry in the state needs to comply with only a few options for waivers.

The cost of which I speak is one that will be experienced when that ubiquitous product, Styrofoam, is phased out as an option, leaving paper, plastic, and pulp products as the only alternatives.

Affordable, tough, non-reactive, and virtually everlasting. The products above would take hundreds of years to decompose.

Polystyrene is a very affordable product for those of us in the foodservice industry. The low cost can be attributed to the inexpensive manufacturing process.

The problem is that the very thing that makes polystyrene so great, (its nearly invulnerable chemical stability), is the very thing that makes it so harmful to the environment. We can no longer use it with such impunity. It will, however, bear a greater financial burden on food businesses.

It seems like lemon juice in a paper cut when, on top of labor shortages and sky-high food prices, you have to give up your cheapest and most widely used disposables for alternatives that cost three and four as much.

Paper product alternatives cost three to four times as much as polystyrene.

I recently sat down and searched the order guides of two distributors with whom I deal to get some idea of what I will have to start paying in four months. Keep in mind, the prices I’m about to cite are specific to my contracts with my vendors, but the ratios will be the same, whether you are a restaurant owner or an individual hosting a backyard BBQ.

My broadline distributor:

1,000 8oz. foam cups-$29.50

500ea 8oz. paper cup, hot-$90.20

1,250ea 8oz. plastic cup, clear-$179.92

My paper distributor:

1,000 8oz. foam cups-$28.17

1,000 8oz. white paper cups-$80.08

Paper and plastic are just inherently more expensive. When those two sub-$30 Styrofoam cases are removed as an option, my choices for an alternative will cost me two to three times as much for a case, and in many cases I will be further hurt because the pack sizes of some alternatives are smaller. These price differences will affect professionals and the public just the same. Those backyard BBQ’s just got a little pricier to host.

Businesses and households will need to shell out more money for Styrofoam alternatives.

What to do?

There isn’t much you can do. The law is now in effect and we will all have to comply or suffer heavy financial penalties. One can apply for a waiver, but that won’t be very easy. So, I imagine prices will go up for some services that rely on these products and budgets will be reexamined. Contracts may be altered for contract food service companies. But despite the damage it may cause, it is a necessary step in the right direction. And anyway, as a believer in the Market and its invisible forces, I know that some enterprising individual will come along and create a new product that is as tough as polystyrene, but not as poisonous.

Comment below and tell me how you think this ban will affect you.


If you prefer to have a more private conversation, you may reach me at [email protected]