D.C. studies ban on styrofoam

WASHINGTON – Could styrofoam to-go containers be going bye-bye in D.C.?

Mayor Vincent Gray is pushing a ban on those plastic foam containers and cups, and included the proposals in a package of environmental proposals he submitted to District Council last month.

The Committee on Transportation and the Environment, led by Councilwoman Mary Cheh, is studying the idea.

The mayor says it’s an important next step in efforts to rid the Anacostia and Potomac rivers of trash, following the implementation three years ago of a 5 cent fee for plastic bags, which has raised millions of dollars for river clean-up.

The local restaurant industry says, for the time being, it’s keeping an open mind about the proposed ban. Environmentalists, as expected are far more enthusiastic.

Mike Bolinder of Anacostia Riverkeeper says getting rid of all that polystyrene foam “will make a pretty significant difference.”

He says the stuff makes up a substantial portion the the total trash load polluting the river, in large part because the plastic foam is not biodegradable.

Bolinder says it is not unusual to find intact, fast food containers in the river that have markings from the 1980s. Other types of plastic foam crumble into tiny pellets which are difficult to remove, and are indistinguishable from food to fish.

Another problem is that styrofoam is very light, so even when it is handled responsibly and, for example, thrown in the trash after a picnic, there is still a chance it could be carried by the wind into the the water.

Bolinder says the ban is a wonderful step in the right direction, but he would like to see more. Bolinder says he would like to see something done about all those plastic bottles floating in the river.

He acknowledges that getting a bottle bill is “a taller order.” But he says if consumers show they want a bottling change, “we may find that Coke and Pepsi and Budweiser become our ally rather than our opponent.”

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