Is this the End of Styrofoam?

Is this the End of Styrofoam?
Polystyrene is a major concern to environmentalists: it disintegrates slowly in landfills (taking centuries to break down entirely).

Seattle, St. Louis, Miami, and now San Francisco, are among the more than 100 cities to ban polystyrene foam packaging partially or completely.

As part of San Francisco’s comprehensive zero-waste plan, the county’s board of supervisors has recently—and unanimously—passed a ban on the sale of polystyrene foam, most commonly known by its trademarked name, Styrofoam. Items such as foam packing (peanuts), cups, and even mooring buoys will be prohibited beginning January 1, 2017, but plastic-foam products for crafts and insulation are exempt. This ban is an extension of a 2006 ordinance, which mandated prepared-food merchants stop using all polystyrene containers.

Polystyrene is a major concern to environmentalists: it disintegrates slowly in landfills (taking centuries to break down entirely), and the capacity of the few polystyrene-recycling centers in San Francisco are unable to process the more than 25 billion annually discarded polystyrene cups. When subjected to water, polystyrene disintegrates into small, round pieces which may look like fish eggs to predators, and when consumed can create a full feeling without any nutritional benefit, thus, starving the animal. Jack Macy, commercial zero waste senior coordinator for San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, points out the necessity of the ban because polystyrene is not practically recyclable, causes a unique harm in the environment, and there are better alternatives.

Though recent research has identified worms found to eat polystyrene, scientists have yet to complete studies on the waste produced to ensure the byproduct is not harmful to the environment.

Critics say supermarkets will be adversely affected because they use polystyrene trays for meat, and the shortened effective period does not allow them sufficient time to find and switch to alternative, food-safe packaging. With this in mind, the board of supervisors granted grocers a six-month waiver. Criticism also came from the American Chemistry Council, which found fault with the ban’s wording, which it says ignores the positives of using polystyrene and assumes substituted materials can or will be more recyclable.

Seattle, St. Louis, Miami, and now San Francisco, are among the more than 100 cities to ban polystyrene foam packaging partially or completely.

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