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D.C. Styrofoam Ban Starts: Will Styrofoam Get the Plastic Bag Treatment?

January 1, 2016

D.C. Styrofoam Ban Starts: Will Styrofoam Get the Plastic Bag Treatment?

By: Kevin Mathews
January 1, 2016

Say farewell to Styrofoam take-out containers in the nation’s capital. It’s been a few years in the making, but Washington, D.C. has finally enacted a firm ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers. Henceforth, all restaurants will have to provide biodegradable alternatives if they want to send their patrons home with leftovers.

The ordinance is a big score for the environment since Styrofoam is a harmful material that takes hundreds of years to decompose. Although it was recently discovered that mealworms can safely digest polystyrene, that’s not currently a practical approach to handling the world’s massive foam waste problem. As it stands, Styrofoam products account for about 30 percent of all space in landfills in the U.S. Altogether, Americans toss approximately 25 billion Styrofoam cups each year.

Styrofoam may be a nationwide problem, but lawmakers also factored in local concerns when deciding to enact the ban. The city has undergone a serious effort to clean the highly polluted Anacostia River, and the Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE) notes that foam containers are some of the most common types of litter fished out of the river. By eliminating Styrofoam boxes and cups, the river should become that much cleaner.

The D.C. law pertains specifically to food and drink containers obtained at restaurants. Styrofoam will still be allowed for a number of other uses, including to pack and ship food products. The DOEE says it will conduct regular inspections to determine that food industry businesses are complying with the law, and it invites citizens to call in tips to report restaurants that continue to serve Styrofoam.

Read more at Care2.

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