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polystyrene

Whatabout that styrofoam?

Texas’ favorite fast food chain is being asked to make changes to how it serves its food.

Activists are pressuring San Antonio-based Whataburger to end its use of foam cups and containers in favor of materials friendlier to the environment.

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling on the popular fast-food chain to stop using polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, in its cups and food containers, Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger said.

The petition was delivered Monday to Whataburger’s San Antonio headquarters and to restaurants in Austin and Corpus Christi by representatives for Environment Texas, Surfrider Foundation’s Texas Coastal Bend chapter and Care2.com.

“We think that they can find a good solution that meets customers’ needs but moves away from such harmful products,” Metzger said outside Whataburger’s headquarters on the North Side.

Whataburger, which has more than 800 stores in 10 states, said it is looking at alternatives to Styrofoam cups “that keep drinks at the right temperature, but we have a lot to consider from a quality and supply perspective when meeting our customers’ expectations.

“In the meantime, we continue to urge customers to properly dispose of our cups,” the company said in a statement.

[…]

McDonald’s pledged to phase out foam cups by the end of the year. Dunkin’ Donuts said earlier this year it would replace its foam cups in favor of double-walled paper cups by 2020. Starbucks Coffee Co. announced plans in July to eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws in favor of strawless lids or straws made from other materials by 2020.

“Companies are very conscious of their brand,” Metzger said. “They’re, of course, wanting to keep their customers. And that’s why I think we’re going to see companies like Whataburger hopefully join the ranks of McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts and do the right thing here.”

Whataburger is talking to Environment Texas and the others about this, as they should. It’s a simple request, for a clear purpose, to do what others are now doing. Whataburger may have some questions, and they would surely need to phase in a change like this over time, but I can’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t want to do it. I hope they make that decision soon.

San Antonio has begun curbside recycling of plastic bags

As of August 1, to be exact.

“We are starting with a new recycling processor that can accept the bags so that allows us to add it to the list of items we can accept,” [Solid Waste Management Department Public Relations Manager Tiffany] Edwards said, adding that the move gives San Antonians another option to recycle the bags, in addition to major grocers and retailers that will typically take the bags back and recycle them.

The new recycler is Recommunity Recycling, which has its corporate headquarters in Charlotte, N.C.

Edwards said residents should take one plastic bag and stuff all the other ones in it until it is about the size of a soccer ball before tossing it in the bin.

But not all plastic bags are accepted.

“We’re telling everybody no black bags, no trash bags,” Edwards said. “We want the translucent ones. We can take dry cleaning bags, sandwich bags and Zip Loc bags, as long as the zip is taken out. Tortilla and bread bags can be recycled, just clean them and get the bread crumbs out.”

And don’t forget to take your receipts out of you grocery bags either, she said.

Black bags aren’t accepted because the bags are a different grade of plastic than the translucent ones and because workers can’t see into the bags, they pose a hazard, Edwards said.

So why start accepting plastic bags now?

“Across the nation, a lot of processors can’t take them because they get stuck in the machinery,” Edwards said.

But the city’s new processor can.

Pretty cool. San Antonio has been on a journey that began in November last year. We first heard about their plan to do curbside recycling of plastic bags in March, but they still ultimately intend to implement a ban of some kind later. They have yet to determine what direction that ban will take, but it’s in the works. You can learn more at SA Recycles and the city’s Solid Waste Management page. Note that they take all forms of plastic plus styrofoam containers in their bins; you can’t put #6 plastic in the city of Houston’s bins, though you can drop of some styrofoam at the various service centers. We need to catch up here, Houston.

Recycle that polystyrene

From the Inbox:

Polystyrene Foam Recycling Available

Beginning Monday, June 25, 2012

Beginning Monday, June 25, 2012, the City of Houston will accept clean block style or packaging polystyrene foam at the Westpark Recycling Center, 5900 Westpark, Houston 77057 and the Environmental Service Center South, 11500 South Post Oak Lane, Houston 77045.  Residents can drop off polystyrene foam at both facilities.

The operating hours for the Westpark Recycling Center are Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. The Environmental Service Center South is open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Thanks to the generosity of Total Petrochemicals & Refining USA, Inc, the City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department (SWMD) has obtained a polystyrene densifier and compactor machine that enables SWMD to transform polystyrene waste into a valuable recycled material. Up until now, polystyrene foams – commonly known as “Styrofoam” – were bulk materials used in packaging that ended up in Houston’s landfills.  Now, polystyrene foam can be compressed by a factor of 40 to 1.  As a result, the densified polystyrene foam becomes a product that can be recycled and reused in a variety of commercial and residential uses.

For more information about polystyrene foam recycling and collection, contact Sandra Jackson at 713.837.9164 or email sandra.jackson2@houstontx.gov.

To learn more about recycling in the City of Houston, visit www.houstonsolidwaste.org,www.greenhoustontx.gov, Facebook at www.facebook.com/houstonsolidwaste and on Twitter @houstontrash.

Very cool. Every time we get a box that has those big styrofoam blocks in it, I want to do something other than throw them out – it sure seems like you ought to be able to recycle them – but there has been no choice. Not anymore, thankfully. I hope someday that these items will be allowed in curbside recycling as well. Regardless, kudos to the Solid Waste department for making this happen.

UPDATE: This is only for styrofoam blocks and packaging, not packing peanuts as my original title read. Those should be taken to your nearest FedEx/Kinkos or UPS Store for reuse. Please remember not to mix the biodegradable peanuts with the styrofoam ones. Thanks to Andy F. for the correction.