Kill Styrofoam

I love ordering out as much as the next person, but I try to make a conscious effort not to order out from restaurants that use Styrofoam (a trademark of Dow) containers, which makes it difficult. Sometimes I can’t help it, but I try to make the effort at least. But, there is hope for those of us who like to treat ourselves and buy take out once in a while…at least here in Chicago.

The worst part about Styrofoam is that it is not biodegradable! So, the Chinese takeout container you threw away six months ago is still sitting in a landfill somewhere. Also, most municipal recycling programs don’t recycle styrofoam because it is weightless and is worthless as scrap. And then there’s the toxic health issues — Styrofoam is manufactered by using hydroflurocarbons, or HFCs, which has negative impacts on the ozone layer and global warming. According to the United Kingdom Environmental Agency, “The main impact of HFCs on the environment is as greenhouse gases, leading to global warming.”

Also recently the brominated flame retardants used in styrofoam is of concern because some research suggests that these chemicals may have negative environmental and health effects.

In February 2010, City of Chicago Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke , proposed a citywide ban on Styrofoam and other “polystyrene foams” after learning that the Chicago Public Schools throw away more than 35 tons of Styrofoam lunch trays each year. According to a February 10, 2010 Chicago Sun Times article, ” If the City Council approves the ban, violators would face fines ranging of up to $300 for the first offense to $500 for subsequent violations. City Hall would be free to grant exemptions, only if there is “no alternative that is both affordable and ‘compostable.'”

The best suggestion is to reduce and reuse and not use Styrofoam. It may look strange, but take your own “to go” container when going to a restaurant this way you would reduce your carbon footprint and reuse your own containers. The safest and best alternative is to use reusable glass, cermaic or stoneware products, which are washable, definately reusable and do not leach chemicals into your food. If you do need to package your food “to go” there are more alternatives out there now, such as products derived from corn and sugar and paper products. Sure, you may have to pay extra money and make an extra trip to a speciality store such as Whole Foods or order something from online, but, doesn’t it pay off in the long run?