Elk Grove may possibly follow the styrofoam bans that are sweeping across America. Cities and towns across the country are banning this environmentally hazardous product. 120 cities in California, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, currently have styrofoam bans or restrictions in place. Major cities in the U.S. such as Seattle, Washington DC, Miami Beach, Minneapolis, Nantucket, Portland, and New York City have set complete or partial bans on styrofoam products.
Last week, the City Council of Elk Grove voted to form a committee that will be in charge of possibly banning the single use of styrofoam products. The committee will be evaluating the effects of the ban on Elk Grove businesses and on the environment. They will then report their findings to the Council for a final decision.
The process of a possible ban could take up to several months according to Heather Neff, Elk Grove’s Recycling and Waste Manager. She stated that the full range of benefits from banning styrofoam is not yet known to the city of Elk Grove, which is why city council needs to form a stakeholder committee to inspect all issues related to this ban. Supporters of the ban are requesting it to be on restaurant takeout styrofoam boxes, which allow only a one time use for leftovers to be repacked and taken home.
The concern of the harmful effects on the environment and human health was brought up to the city council earlier this year by a group of Consumnes Oaks High school students. The students started a campaign last March through the Climate Action Team, a sub-group of the Environmental Club at their high school. The club advisor, Lysa Munson said that the students wanted to do something urgently because of the increasing feeling of a crisis relating to our climate change and legitimate concern of not having a sustainable future.
The Impact of Styrofoam
Matthew Sutton, senior vice president of government affairs and public policy for the California Restaurant Association said at the meeting last week, that his group supports recyclability, and takes litter abatement seriously, but opposes the ban. Restaurant owners said styrofoam is cheap and banning it could cost them, even more, to pack up leftovers. Nonetheless, Linda Chindalucklate, owner of Naga Thai Bistro said that she does support this change; even though, the cost may increase up to 20% to 30% for her restaurant. She added that even though paper takeout boxes cost more, she is willing to do her part in paying a higher price in order to help the world.
Styrofoam is not biodegradable and cannot be recycled. It contributes to landfill trash. Chemicals such as benzene used in the production of styrofoam are harmful to the environment according to environmentalists. It takes 500 years to decompose and it takes up 25-30% of our world’s landfills. In addition, our lakes, waterways, and oceans are suffering due to styrofoam wastes. There are 57 chemical byproducts released during the manufacturing of styrene, used in styrofoam products, polluting the air and waterways. Styrofoam is manufactured with hydrofluorocarbons that are linked to depleting the ozone layer and affecting global warming.
The health hazards of using styrofoam products are severe. Notably, styrofoam food containers leach the toxin styrene when they come into contact with warm food or drink, alcohol, oils, and acidic foods. These toxins can cause human contamination and a high health risk to people. Styrofoam has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system disorders. Moreover, research has shown that when styrofoam is burned, it releases toxic chemicals and smoke. More notably, these toxic chemicals and smoke can damage the nervous system and lungs.
Alternatives to using styrofoam can be reusable containers or paper takeout boxes. Styrofoam cups can be replaced by using reusable coffee cups or paper cups. Avoid packaging that cannot be recycled in the community. Choose throwaways made from compostable material. Encourage restaurants to provide biodegradable or compostable takeout containers. The more we do today, may prove vastly helpful in the future and for generations to follow.