The Styrofoam ban heading to San Luis Obispo County
“Can I get that to go?”
This phrase will often conjure up thoughts of food nestled in a white Styrofoam package; however, a ban presented by the environmental group SLO Foam Free, may change the traditional “to-go” image and ban the sale of Styrofoam in mid winter.
Expanded polystyrene (EPS), otherwise known as Styrofoam, poses a great risk to the environment and peoples’ health. EPS takes up to 500 years to decompose and currently fills up thirty percent of our landfills. It cannot be recycled even though it has a recycling sign on the bottom. The sign is not regulated and polystyrene is technically a plastic. However, because of Styrofoam’s low density, many recyclable places cannot recycle it, according to the Santa Barbara Resource Recovery and Waste Management Division. It also contaminates peoples’ nervous system and has carcinogenic effects. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, long term exposure of EPS can result in depression, hearing loss, and fatigue.
EPS is made using styrene monomer, which is a toxic, colorless liquid that often leaves residue in its products. Styrene monomer is not only used for food containers, it is also found in CD cases, packing peanuts, and plastic cutlery. Eating food out of Styrofoam containers is harmful – styrene monomer is proven by the Earth Resource Foundation to leech out of its containers and into human bodies.
SLO Foam Free is an organization dedicated to “eliminating the sale and commercial use of EPS foam in restaurants and grocery stores”, according to their website, www.hopedance.org. The group first met on January 12, 2014 to propose the ban to the SLO City Council on March 4, 2014. The ban consists of eradicating the use of EPS in San Luis Obispo county, following the lead of 91 cities in America, with 84 in California, such as San Francisco, Malibu, and Santa Cruz.
“[SLO Foam Free] is really part of the global community wanting to create a cleaner environment,” spokeswoman Janine Rands says.
The ban has 143 official supporters based on the SLO Foam Free Facebook page, email list, and group members. Some local businesses are joining the cause.
“I do support a ban on Styrofoam. We have been trying to be very environmentally friendly,” says Dawn Gregory, owner of Odyssey World Cafe in downtown Paso Robles.
On websturantstore.com, a hinged Styrofoam container costs $1.14 per case. On the same website, a hinged sugarcane-made biodegradable container costs $3.77 per case.
“We do have one product that we use [and] that’s Styrofoam and it is very inexpensive…But we are trying to get rid of it,” Gregory said. “We have to pass on the expense to the customer.”
Ultimately, the consumer will decide if the cost to save their health and the environment is worth the price.