It might sound like a bizarre object to harbor a grudge against … but polystyrene, or styrofoam, is kind of the bane of our existence. We hate the squeaky noise it makes when you open or close the lid of a styrofoam conatiner, but most of all we hate the impact that it has on the planet, people and animals. Some view it as a convenient to-go container, but we see it as portable environmental destruction.
If you share our grudge against styrofoam then we have incredible news for you … New York City has just banned restaurants from using polystyrene containers! How incredible is that? Makes you want to pack up and head to NYC, doesn’t it?
In a statement covering the ban, Mayor Bill DeBlasio (our new BFF) explains, “These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City.” Amen to that Bill.
You see, these containers are made from the compound styrene, which is classified as “possible human carcinogen” and neurotoxin that can pose serious health concerns to humans. Chronic exposure to styrene can have more severe effects, such as damage to the nervous system, chronic fatigue and has been linked to an increased risk of leukemia and lymphoma.
Styrene is fat soluble and leaches at a faster rate when in contact with highly acidic products. So … putting hot food and beverages in this fun, potentially carcinogenic material just seems to make sense, right?
But the negative consequences of using styrofoam extend far beyond humans. These containers are light-weight and often end up floating in waterways. Clean Water Action identifies polystyrene as a pervasive marine pollutant. Marine species mistake this waste as food. Styrene is harmful to humans, meaning the direct consumption of this plastic foam is similarly harmful to marine species.
Because a viable method to recycle polystyrene has not yet been identified, these containers are left to build up in landfills where their chemical components slowly breakdown. Plastic polymers never fully biodegrade, but simply breakdown into small dust particles that can be spread easily throughout the environment.
DeBlasio points out that this ban will prevent 30,000 tons of expanded polystryene from entering into NYC waterways and landfills. The ban also bans the use of polystyrene packing peanuts (double win!).
While there has been some concern raised over how this ban will impact restaurants, DeBlasio states, “We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less.”
The ban will officially go into action on July 1, 2015, allowing restaurants, cafeterias and street carts a six-month window to make the switch. New York is joining 70 other cities who have banned polystyrene and hopefully, many other will follow suit!
Thanks to this ban, New Yorkers are now on their way to less pollution and a healthier environment … that’s certainly something we can all celebrate!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Image source: David Gilford/Flickr