By Emily Saunders
Takeout food is every college student’s best friend –a lazy Sunday afternoon companion, and sometimes simpler than a trip to the grocery store! But not everyone thinks about impacts of the disposable polystyrene foam used for most to-go food and drink containers.
Polystyrene, or Styrofoam, is very difficult and expensive to recycle, and when littered it can be harmful to wildlife as well as hazardous to human health. Styrene is the chemical that polystyrene is made from, and it is a carcinogen as well as a reproductive toxin. Health risks present themselves when this chemical seeps into the hot food and beverages we consume.
With this said, these containers have been a huge contributor to Minneapolis’ waste problem. Fortunately, the Minneapolis City Council has decided to take action towards more sustainable container options, and a ban on the use of polystyrene foam for restaurant-industry takeout containers. The ban will take effect on Earth Day 2015.
This is just one example of the progress we are making towards Minneapolis’ mission to become cleaner, safer and more sustainable – and steps like these make the city more attractive for both new residents and visitors.
Although Styrofoam containers have been widely used by restaurants, the proposal was met with support. Sierra Club volunteer leader Mark Snyder, who spoke in support of the measure at a recent City Council hearing, remarked that “it was great to see the number of restaurants that spoke in favor of the polystyrene ban and have already switched to better alternatives.”
With the increased use of recyclable and compostable food containers, sustainability gains at a small local level will decrease our environmental impact on a global level.
Emily Saunders is a Political and Communications intern with the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.