Activists aim to eliminate Styrofoam

County bill would ban usage of plastic foam at chain businesses

— Getting coffee served up in a Styrofoam cup could become a rarity if a proposed ban targeting chain food businesses becomes effective in Albany County.

Several proponents of a ban on polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, from chain establishments continued urging county legislators on Monday, Sept. 9, to approve the “Food Service Waste Reduction Act.” The proposed local law would ban businesses with at least 15 locations nationally from selling any prepared food or drink in a plastic foam container. The bill is still in committee, and a public hearing on the law was held last month.

Tim Burch, an Albany resident, said he moved from out-of-state to the city and has since started recycling more due to local recycling programs.

“We were shocked at how little we recycled,” Burch said.

Burch said while he “ordinarily would be watching the Yankees,” he thought it was important to voice his support for sustainable practices. He said it was important to “take small steps” to make improvements, such as the plastic foam ban.

Several other people spoke in favor of reducing the county’s environmental impact. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined the polystyrene manufacturing process is the fifth highest producer of hazardous waste nationally.

Paula Brewer, of Cohoes, said people generally haven’t been as focused on reducing consumption when compared to recycling and reusing.

“As I look around and see the growth in disposable items, I think we need to start embracing that first ‘R,’” Brewer said. “Not everything is recyclable, nor will it ever be, not everything is reusable, so I think we need to think about actually reducing our impact on the environment.”

Another contested issue is possible negative health effects of using plastic foam containers for food and beverages. Brewer, who identified herself as a nutritionist, said removing toxins from our environment could help improve people’s health and reduce the prevalence of obesity.

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