The Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) has rejected calls from a group of chefs in London to ban polystyrene packaging and has reiterated that the material is safe, resource-efficient and boasts functional benefits. FPA executive director Martin Kersh has responded to the proposal of a polystyrene ban.
BY MARTIN KERSH
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FPA
This is a strange and perhaps misplaced request coming from such eminent chefs who place great emphasis on the freshness and high quality of the ingredients they cook and so rely on fish arriving with them in perfect condition as befitting their well-earned reputations.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is used for fish boxes as tests confirm it provides excellent insulation qualities. Where fish may take three days from landing to kitchen, EPS is shown to keep the fish below 5°C when packed with ice. The fish is therefore protected for longer; preserving food and ensuring it is 100% safe must surely be the priority.
The chefs have also failed to consider the full life cycle of EPS in their damning environmental assessment. EPS is effectively 98% air and is made from a by-product. It is also lighter so taken across the whole life cycle can be shown to be highly economical with respect to energy usage. With respect to waterways and oceans, the chefs must surely recognise that the packaging does not jump into the waterways on its own volition but is present in oceans and waterways as a result of human behaviour. The focus of their attack should be directed towards those people who feel it is acceptable to litter and not the packaging itself.
Polystyrene is not difficult to recycle and facilities exist enabling this to be achieved and a valuable end material is produced. Indeed, there has been a recycling facility in Billingsgate for a number of years and a new one has just opened in Wales.
With regard to safety, the chefs have surely scored a huge own goal. EPS is non-toxic. It is chemically inert so fungi and bacteria are unable to grow on it. Foam packaging will not transfer germs and is totally safe and hygienic. Strawberries and wine contain styrene and we look forward to an announcement from the chefs to say that will be removing both of these items from their menus.
The chefs quote US cities having banned the use of EPS packaging however there are now examples of a reversal in this trend. Most prominent is in New York City where the restaurant industry successfully campaigned to have the ban reversed.
We strongly believe that the chefs involved should have first discussed the management of used EPS fish boxes with their waste management contractors, rather than issue these very inaccurate comments. They’ve been receiving fish in this way for years so have had plenty of time to do so. Mayor Khan does not have the powers to enforce such a ban but is very keen to improve waste management in the capital. We urge the Mayor to include changing the behaviour of those who litter in this remit and urge the chefs to give the Mayor their support in improving waste management and to provide financial support to innovative litter reduction programmes such as Hubbub’s Neat Streets campaign.
It’s a shame these superb chefs have focused their attentions on a single material which is 100% safe, is resource efficient and has excellent functional benefits. We have been delighted to work with the restaurant industry to achieve food waste reductions and would be pleased to work with them and the GLA to achieve improvements in waste management.
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