As of July 1st, 2015, it is now illegal for companies to use styrofoam packaging in the city of New York – a ban that comes into place with fair warning, and after foam lobbyists failed to sufficiently prove that their product is effectively recyclable.
Companies will be given the remainder of the year (6 months) to make the transition before fines will be handed out for a failure to comply with this newly passed law. The change may seem small, but given how many companies rely upon styrofoam, especially in the food industry, the new law could be quite monumental in impacting New York’s garbage situation.
New York isn’t the first city to ban the packaging alternative, as other major US cities such as Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C., amongst others, have already made the transition. For the full list or a map of the US cities that have banned styrofoam I encourage you to check out this link.
The Problem With Styrofoam
One of the most glaring issues with styrofoam is our inability to recycle it effectively. Coupled with the fact that according to the EPA, Americans alone throw out approximately 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups per year, that’s a scary thing to think of – especially since coffee cups are just one of many regularly used styrofoam-based containers.
Rather than being recycled, styrofoam ends up in our landfills, and in many cases in our oceans as well, where it wreaks havoc on marine life. According to Douglas McCauley, a marine biology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara:
Oftentimes, we find polystyrene foam lodged in the intestines that causes blockages that can be lethal. If you think about how we worry about a mild blockage from eating the wrong thing, imagine eating a ball of Styrofoam. That’s what some of these animals are doing… Polystyrene foams essentially act like little pollutant sponges, picking up and concentrating some of the nastiest contaminants in the ocean… Then something like a sea turtle comes along and eats this thinking it is a jellyfish.
Unfortunately, styrofoam isn’t the only manmade pollutant impacting our oceans, I encourage you to check out either of the following links to see the devastating damage that plastic is causing:
A Step In The Right Direction
While some may argue that this is a very minor step in the right direction, and understandably so, it is still, in my opinion, worth celebrating. New York City is undoubtedly one of the most influential cities in both the United States and the entire world, giving hope that in making this move other cities will be even more inclined to follow suit.
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