Should styrofoam containers be banned? | The Tylt

Should styrofoam containers be banned?

You probably don't think twice when you ask if you can get a to-go box for your restaurant leftovers. Styrofoam has long been utilized by the food industry to package food. It's cheap, light, and provides good insulation–the triple threat. But according to environmentalists, styrofoam is doing much more harm to the environment than taking home a half-uneaten burger is worth. The material can take up to one million years to break down. Should styrofoam be banned?

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We are so accustomed to seeing styrofoam in everyday life that it might be hard to imagine a world without it. Where would leftovers go? What would a package be without packing peanuts? These are the very hesitations that have led to a total of 28,500 tons of styrofoam produced in New York during 2014 alone, 90 percent of which was used for single-use products like cups and trays.

Home & Garden's Green Living section reports:

Cleveland State University states that [styrofoam] requires more than a million years to decompose.

Although styrofoam can be recycled, Home & Garden's Vijayalaxmi Kinhal points out that the market for recycling styrofoam is diminishing due to a difficult production process:

The amounts of Styrofoam waste that accumulates is colossal, as only 1% of Styrofoam is recycled in California according to a 2016 Los Angeles Times news report.
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Nevertheless, styrofoam remains a go-to for businesses and everyday consumers. Beyond cups and plates, styrofoam can also be used for roofs, walls, and floors in buildings. The Independent Institute argues that banning styrofoam does not have the intended positive effects on the environment:

On average, 2.3 million tons of Styrofoam end up in landfills every year in the United States. That is less than 7 percent of the nearly 33.54 million tons of plastic Americans discard annually. Additionally, replacing Styrofoam products with paper alternatives often creates more waste (in volume and energy use) and generates more air and water pollution. 

Authors William F. Shughart II and Katie Colton also assert that paper manufacturing can be more detrimental to the environment than styrofoam manufacturing. Therefore, banning styrofoam will not have as much of a positive impact as some city and state governments may hope.

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According to ABC News, styrofoam is a "covert killer" within a "catalog of carcinogens." Lila Battis believes styrofoam should be banned, if not from your city, at least from your own daily habits:

Ban it from your body because of what it's made from: styrene, which may generate a chemical that can damage your DNA. Ifs [sic] "reasonably anticipated" to be a human carcinogen, a National Toxicology Program report notes.

Home & Garden's Kinhal adds:

The EPA report says chronic exposure to styrene leads to further complications, including adverse effects on the nervous and respiratory systems, and possibly the kidney and liver, as well as other issues. 
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The L.A. Times echoes the position that banning styrofoam would do more harm than good. Gary Toebben, the president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, explains: 

Single-use polystyrene (hard plastic) or expanded polystyrene (mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam) are used for drinks, take-out food, roasted chicken, straws and much more. Contrary to widespread belief, popular replacements often have a bigger environmental impact than the foam we already use, resulting in more air and water pollution during their life cycle, more waste by weight and volume and even more energy use.

Furthermore, some alternatives to styrofoam, such as compostable containers, are incredibly expensive to produce, making them out-of-reach for many small business owners. Banning styrofoam will have unintended negative consequences on both the environment and the economy.

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Should styrofoam containers be banned?
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