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Styrofoam backlash

From coffee cups to packing peanuts, Styrofoam at times appears to be a ubiquitous aspect of modern living. It is especially ubiquitous in garbage because it disintegrates extremely slowly, according to experts, taking up more than its share of landfills, and exacerbating trash disposal problems that are already troublesome. It is for this reason that some local legislators are looking to ban Styrofoam food packaging, at least in certain circumstances, and why Community Board 10 appears to be poised to give their seal of approval to the efforts. At the January meeting of the board’s Environmental Com-mittee, which was held at the board office, 621 86th Street, members voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the board support legislation introduced by City Councilmember Bill DeBlasio (Intro 609) that would ban the use of polystyrene food packaging by city agencies or restaurants. The committee also voted to recommend that the board support legislation introduced by Manhattan State Senator Liz Krueger (S6402) that would phase out gradually the use of polystyrene products in the food service industry. “It takes 500 years to disintegrate,” noted Greg Ahl, the committee chairperson during the discussion. When you have a hot beverage in Styrofoam, he added, “You’re actually drinking a percentage of cup, because it melts right into your coffee.” “There are substitutes,” added committee member Tim Cross. “It’s not like if you ban Styrofoam, people are not going to be able to get a cup of coffee.” Cardboard cups coated with wax, he added, “are relatively benign, compared to Styrofoam.” The legislation, Cross added, “Is not outlawing Styrofoam. It’s trying to limit its use.” While, he acknowledged, there will be, “Some pain as people transition, it is probably worth doing.” In addition, he pointed out, Styrofoam bans have been enacted elsewhere. According to a release provided by Krueger when her bill was introduced, approximately 100 municipalities around the United States have enacted such a ban. New York State, however, would be the first state to do so, should Krueger’s legislation – which gives the food service industry a year to locate alternatives that are environmentally-friendly —become law. According to Krueger, 1,369 tons of polystyrene products are disposed of daily around the United States. The New York City Department of Education tosses a total of 150 million Styrofoam trays each year. This material, according to Krueger, clogs the waste stream; in addition, one component of the material – styrene – is a suspected carcinogen and neurotoxin, according to material released by Krueger’s office.

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