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When it comes to keeping food and beverages warm on-the-go, styrofoam can seem like a fantastic material. It can be used for everything from coffee to soup and entire entrées, and it does a great job at holding in all the heat you need. Unfortunately, the versatility and convenience of this material comes with a high cost.

These containers are made with the compound styrene which is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” and a neurotoxin that poses a serious threat to humans. While this might seem daunting, 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. Probably didn’t think about that the last time you ordered Seamless…

Adding insult to injury, this product is also extremely harmful to the environment, classified as a persistent marine pollutant. Just like with other types of plastic, styrofoam takes thousands of years to break down and when it does, it really just becomes little pieces of styrofoam dust. This dust is highly toxic and can be easily transmitted to marine life and travel through the entire food chain.

Given the many problems with this material, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently unanimously voted to ban a number of commonly used foam products, in a move that is being called the nation’s most extensive such ban. This decision was made largely due to the prevalence of environmental concerns associated with the material. According to a report in TIME, “The ban applies to polystyrene food packaging, packing peanuts, to-go containers, coffee cups and pool toys, among other things. For most products, the ban will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. For meat and fish trays, it becomes effective July 1, 2017.”

Considering the fact that over 25 million styrofoam cups are thrown out every year, and this material takes up between 25-30 percent of the nation’s landfill space, this ban has the potential to lower the amount of waste going to landfills each year – and also, hopefully, inspire similar action from other municipalities across the U.S.

Similar bans have been put into place in New York City and Washington D.C., but you don’t have to wait for a ban to come to where you live to make a positive change for your health and the health of the marine environment. For some helpful tips and tricks to cut back on the styrofoam in your life, join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign.

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