Monday, February 29, 2016

Battling styrofoam with the law on our side

Since it's invention by Dow Chemical in 1941, extruded polystyene, better known by the brand name Styrofoam, has been a menace to soil and water around the world. 

Although its mass is 98% air, the beads which contain the air are not biodegradable or recyclable and have been designated by the EPA as a possible carcinogen.
Because it is extremely lightweight, foam is easily blown by wind and washed by rain. Styrofoam plates, cups and boxes brake up into tiny pieces as they age, fouling soil and the water and poisoning animals that ingest them. 
Their glossy white color stands out against earth tones. 
As of January 1, 2016, it in unlawful for restaurants, carry outs, food trucks and cafeterias in the District of Columbia to use foam containers. 

Your coffee, curry or fish sandwich should be served in a paper or plastic container. If it does come in styrofoam do your part by submitting a tip to the DC Department of Energy and Environment. 

Unfortunately, use of styrofoam remains legal in the following cases:
  • Food containers (such as egg cartons) packaged outside of the District but sold within
  •  Raw meat, fish, poultry, or seafood sold at markets
  • Foam products purchased at stores for home use
Montgomery County, Maryland has a ban similar to DC's but foam containers are still ubiquitous throughout the rest of Maryland and Virginia. 

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