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Legislation Changing Packaging Practices

New Yorkers love affair with takeout food will soon look a whole lot different.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a ban on the environmentally unfriendly foam takeout and delivery food containers. The ban will start July 1 and covers foam cups and takeout containers as well as foam packing peanuts. Other cities with bans already in effect include San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

Styrofoam packaging, a takeout food and coffee cup staple, doesn’t biodegrade and can’t be recycled.

Dunkin’ Donuts says all of its 536 shops in New York City will comply with the ban and eliminate the brand’s trademark Styrofoam cups. The company is testing new cups including a “double-walled paper cup.”

Styrofoam is made of polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic. The Earth Resource Foundation, says styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

According to the EPA, each year Americans  throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups. Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill.

Unfortunately, many curbside recycling programs do not take food-soiled packaging such as cardboard pizza boxes but some cities do have composting programs. Takeout cups are often not accepted in curbside recycling programs. For example Starbucks’ plastic cups are #5 plastic and are not widely accepted in curbside programs. However, Preserve’s Gimme 5 program is one of the easiest ways to recycle plastic #5 products and the bins can be found at most Whole Foods locations. Some local curbside recycling programs will take both plastic and paper drink cups. Check with your local recycling program and instead of tossing your cup in the restaurant trash can, take it home and recycle it.

As a consumer or business, what else can you do? Bring your own reusable coffee tumbler to coffee shops and bring your lunch to work packed in reusable, waste-free containers. Bring your own growler to microbreweries and while it may increase the weight and cost a few cents more, bring your own container to fill up at a salad bar. Or consider a meal that has edible packaging such as a tamale wrapped in an edible corn husk!

Image: Eat Drink Better

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