New York’s ban on airpop®-based takeaway packaging and doggy bags has been reversed by the Supreme Court. © mark notari, flickr.com

New York’s ban on airpop®-based takeaway packaging and doggy bags has been reversed by the Supreme Court. © mark notari, flickr.com

New Yorkers divided on airpop®

Schaumstoffverpackungen: Verbannung wieder aufgehoben

Only six months later anyone going to a restaurant or takeaway in New York can take their food home in EPS packaging again. The Supreme Court of the city has reversed the ban that was issued by the Mayor of New York in July 2015.

Supreme Court vs City Council

On 1 July 2015 it finally happened: after a lengthy debate, which had lasted for many years, New York City Council responded to negative environmental assessments with a complete ban on packaging made from expanded polystyrene, known since 2014 as airpop®. Such foam packaging is primarily used for fast food, take-away coffee and also doggy bags in restaurants. The material is particularly popular on account of its excellent thermal properties and low manufacturing costs. The City Council, however, mainly took exception to the recycling options presented by this material. It has been estimated that the United States alone uses 25 billion disposable coffee cups per year, so that sustainability is regarded as a key factor in the choice of material. Nevertheless the Supreme Court recently overruled the City Council and reversed the ban on such products. From now on EPS bowls, plates and cups can be manufactured again and can be offered and sold throughout New York.
airpop® packaging has a range of advantages: it is inexpensive, light and has optimum thermal properties. © triocean, fotolia.com

airpop® packaging has a range of advantages: it is inexpensive, light and has optimum thermal properties. © triocean, fotolia.com

Advantages and disadvantages of airpop®

In order to produce expanded polystyrene, small polymer pellets, mixed with chemicals, are heated up and expanded to 50 times their original volume. Cooled down very briefly, they are then pressed into the desired packaging shape. 95 per cent of the end product is air, so that the packaging is very light in weight, while manufacturing costs are minimal. The rest is a granulate obtained from crude oil, of which five kilograms are required for one kilogram of airpop®.

Innovative thermal boxes

However, high-quality packaging and safe shipment for temperature-sensitive products are vital requirements not only in the food industry, but also at laboratories and hospitals. Scientists at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland have succeeded in developing a packaging material which is virtually indistinguishable from airpop® yet it is fully biodegradable. The innovative material, called Aeroclay, is just as light, sturdy and temperature-resistant as EPS. However, once it has been compressed, it reverts back to its original state, making it easily recyclable. Manufacturing involves the mixing of dried clay and water with one of about 30 different polymers, depending on requirements. Moreover, it is a sustainable packaging solution, based not on crude oil, but on wood fibre, fruit extract, seaweed or casein.
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