People in the U.S. and around the world use billions of plastic containers, utensils, & bags every year. Do we really need these ‘conveniences’?
The processes of manufacturing styrene & styrene foam releases thousands of tons of ozone into the atmosphere and a variety of other pollutants that cause cancer and other health effects in those who work in or live anywhere near the plants. When styrene (solid or foam) is used for food, chemicals can leach into hot food & drinks, causing health problems for those who use them.
These plastic containers and bags join other plastic litter and fill our landfills — and even worse, tons of them wash into the rivers and into the oceans. One place all this stuff winds up is in the Great Pacific garbage patch — a gyre in the Pacific Ocean that is now estimated to be twice the size of Texas! When these pieces of plastic trash break down into small particles, they are ingested by marine organisms and eventually wind up back in our food chain.
Los Angeles (city & count), San Francisco and dozens of other cities in California ban styrofoam — as do Minneapolis MN, Rahway NJ, & Seattle WA. As the article link below indicates, New York City is likely to join the list next year.
In NYC, Bloomberg spokesman Jake Goldman said in 2013, “When polystyrene foam is used for food service it becomes a devastating pollutant that infects our parks and waterways while never biodegrading and has been classified a carcinogenic health hazard by the National Institute of Health.”
Even McDonald’s has replaced most uses of styrofoam with paper or other compostable products — many decades ago in Vermont and 20+ years ago nationwide.
I think it’s clear that single-use containers & utensils should be eliminated wherever possible. In cases when a single-use container is absolutely necessary, styrene should be replaced with biodegradable products.
Yet many local restaurants and fast-food joints here continue to use styrofoam cups, plates, and ‘clamshells’, not to mention utensils made of styrene — and so do many schools, hospitals, and other institutions.
Many of you have already made a habit of taking reusable bags to the store [not just the grocery store, I hope]. Nationwide, people discard about 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups every year, so one important step is to get a reusable mug and use it every time you have coffee!
Is the continuing harm from these products — both plastic bags & styrofoam — important enough to invest time in banning them or should we eliminate them by refusing to use them and refusing to accept them in stores and restaurants?
- NYC Can’t Recycle Polystyrene Foam Food Containers; Ban is Only Sensible Solution
- Bag Bans Will Keep Harmful Plastic Out of the Ocean
- Great Pacific garbage patch
- Charles Moore: Seas of plastic – TED
- REFUSE Single-use, Disposable Plastic | Plastic Free Times
- Klean Kanteen: Take the Pledge – Refuse Single-Use