District considers styrofoam container ban

Mayor Vincent Gray has 11 pieces of environmental legislation on his plate, but the one receiving the most attention is a proposed ban on styrofoam food and drink containers. A ban on styrofoam, proponents claim, would reduce pollution in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and make the surrounding environment safer.

The Gray administration has set a goal to have the Anacostia swimmable and fishable by 2032. “This [ban] is the next step to address the pollution problems that our rivers and waterways have here in the District of Columbia,” District Department of the Environment Director Keith Anderson said, according to the Washington Post.

Other proponents have gotten a little closer to the beautiful nature of the District in support of the bill. “I’m certain you will hear from packaging manufactures that a ban is an affront to their livelihood. But I’m here today speaking for the Anacostia River, which has no master on Wall Street, who has taken all this abuse for so long and whose waters long for clarity and sustainability,” James Foster of the Anacostia Watershed Society said, according to WAMU.  “’Free me from styrofoam’ is the call I hear from the river. ’Stop clogging my arteries and tributaries with trash.'” Look out, D.C. We have the next Thoreau on our hands.

Opponents, however, have said that banning styrofoam would place an unreasonable burden on local businesses, which would just switch to a different container, thereby creating a new form of pollution. But experts claim that styrofoam is uniquely problematic, due to its tendency to breakup into tiny, non-biodegradable pebbles that cannot be collected or picked up easily.

One Council spokesman, Warren Robinson, suggested expanded foam container recycling efforts in lieu of banning polystyrene foams entirely, according to the Post. Robinson went on to reference a study from 2011 which claims that banning foam containers would cost local businesses $8.5 million in additional costs.

While it’s not clear if the proposal will garner enough support, Gray has said that the ban is a necessary sacrifice for the good of the area. “We knew that there would be some elements of it that would be controversial, and undoubtedly this will be one,” Gray said, according to the Post. “But if we really want to clean up the environment and keep it clean, we’re going to have to make these kinds of decisions.”

Photo: Jason Mrachina via Flickr

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