The Anacostia River in Washington D.C. has fallen on hard times. To put it simply, the little brother of the Potomac is absolutely packed with waste. There is all kinds of refuse polluting this river in our nation’s capital, but evidently the biggest offenders are the “disposable” polystyrene foam products used in take-out and fast food joints. Polystyrene is also used in everyone’s favorite space-filler, the packing peanut, which has also been a contributor to the trouble on the river.
Thankfully for the Anacostia, government bodies in the D.C. area, Maryland’s Montgomery County to the north, and Prince George County, also in Maryland, are all working towards a solution. Washington and Montgomery both have legislation in place that will put polystyrene bans into effect on January 1, 2016, and Prince George County is working on passing legislation that would enact their own ban within the same time frame.
This isn’t the first instance you’ll find of a polystyrene ban. More than seventy cities in California already have bans in place, along with New York City, Westchester, NY, Seattle, Portland, OR, Freeport, ME, and Minneapolis.
While polystyrene is recyclable, it isn’t an easy process. Polystyrene recycling is based on weight, and due to how light the product is, one location is probably not going to have enough of the substance to make a pickup worthwhile. Drivers would have to travel around from location to location until they had picked up enough of the refuse to make it economically feasible for recycling.
Given the problems associated with polystyrene, you’d think everyone would be on board. But at the same time you can probably imagine that more than a few industries find these bans to be in conflict with their interests. The American Chemistry Council and Dart Container Corporation (the global leader in polystyrene manufacturing) as well as The Restaurant Association of Maryland are all three opposed to the ban coming to the Washington D.C. area.
This particular writer would fall on the side of environment, but I can also sympathize that businesses and restaurants will need to find a new source of packaging for a lot of their food. I can also understand that a producer of polystyrene can’t exactly be held responsible for the disposal of their product. I’d like to believe both Dart and the Restaurant Association would be able to find solutions to their specific issues that wouldn’t result in the Anacostia receiving the bulk of the burden. Then again, there are some issues that will always be polarizing and with seemingly no solution to suit everyone.
Image Source: Low Impact Development