Foam cups and takeout containers produced from polystyrene were once widely used. However, more and more cities are outlawing their use in stores and restaurants. As of December 6th, the City Council of Los Angeles has joined over a hundred international cities in prohibiting the sale and distribution of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam.
Furthermore, the City Council passed an ordinance on reusable bags at stores and markets as well as voted to reduce the use of single-use plastics, including plates and utensils. Companies with more than 26 employees have until April 2023 to comply with the ban, while smaller businesses have until April 2024. Businesses that violate the provisions will be subject to fines.
Winding down on the use of styrofoam products stems from the concern with toxic pollution caused by styrene. Styrene is a chemical used to make latex, synthetic rubber and polystyrene resins. These resins manufacture plastic packaging, disposable cups and containers, insulation, and other products. Unfortunately, such materials are associated with public health risks and are hazardous to the environment, marine life and human health.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, exposure to styrene is believed to be cancerous and can result in headaches, fatigue, weakness, hearing loss, and disrupted kidney function. Likewise, the Worldwatch Institute reported that styrene and other plastic materials pose a threat to oceanic ecosystems as they travel to waterways. Plastics are highly toxic substances that release poisons to everything that comes within contact, including marine life.
"A ban on styrofoam would be a milestone toward ending toxic pollution that fouls our waterways and oceans.” - Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell
Cities worldwide have taken the initiative to reduce the amount of plastic materials to establish zero-waste goals. Such commitments are the stepping stones to a healthy environment in which everyone can thrive.