Legislating Polystyrene Use and Manufacture

Chemically-heavy, non-biodegradable polystyrene foam containers are hurting humans and our planet. Municipalities are taking a proactive approach to the problem by restricting—and sometimes banning—their use.

Imagine if the first settlers at Plymouth Rock had been able to eat their meals from polystyrene plates and bowls and then disposed of them in a local landfill. Lucky for us they didn’t—because those same containers would still be there today. The fact is, products made from polystyrene can take more than 500 years to decompose. That’s alarming, particularly for environmentalists and health experts who fear that a major crisis for humans and the planet is imminent.

Why polystyrene is considered a problem

  • It does not biodegrade. Materials may break into small pieces, but the smaller it gets the harder it is to clean up.
  • It’s made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Those chemicals may be released if they come in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. They keep your coffee hot—but they may also add an unwanted dose of toxins to your drink.
  • Animals sometimes eat it. Turtles and fish seem to mistake polystyrene products like Styrofoam containers for food, and that can kill them. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.
  • It can’t be recycled. Some commercial mailing houses may accept packing peanuts, but for the most part community recycling centers do not accept throwaway foam food containers.
  • It can be an ozone killer. Polystyrene products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource. Extruded polystyrene is usually made with hydro chlorofluorocarbons which have effects on ozone depletion and on global warming.

Communities are taking action

A number of General Code clients are tackling the polystyrene issue and many have enacted legislation that address community concerns and compliance with state and federal regulations. Here are some examples of their Codes that you can view in eCode360®:

Have another local issue? See what other communities are doing with eCode360.
Our eCode clients like you can search our entire eCode360 database of over 2,000 Codes for more examples of plastics legislation—or any legislative issue that comes up! Just type key words, such as “polystyrene,” “bicycle trails” or “chickens,” and a list of matching Code content will come up. You can even filter results by the municipalities’ population, geography, government type, and class.

Chances are, if a topic has come up, your neighbors have addressed it too. With this eCode360 tool, you can find samples in a matter of seconds! To try it out, you’ll need to log in to eCode360 using your password. Don’t have a password yet? Request one here.

To learn how to use this tool with our Trainer, register for a webinar.

Our free intro webinar covers all of the tools available when you log in as a municipal staff member with eCode360.

If you have recently passed legislation, be sure to pass it along to us at ezsupp@generalcode.com so we can add it to your Code. And please give us a call if you have any questions. We are happy to help!

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