The city of San Francisco in California will no longer allow food packaging and other products made of polystyrene starting next year. The news came after the SF Board of Supervisors unanimously voted on Tuesday, June 28, to restrict its use in the city.
According to Time, the ban, which will become effective starting Jan. 1, 2017, includes foam items like coffee cups, coolers, packaging for food, disposable dishware, toys for swimming, and other foam items. Trays used for meat and fish will have an additional six months to be phased out, until July 1, 2017.
This new ordinance, Mother Jones reports, is part of San Francisco's "zero waste" goal by the year 2020. The city already forbade to-go food containers made of polystyrene in 2007. And while other cities in the United States also have similar regulations, San Francisco's latest ordinance is considered as the toughest ban on foam products thus far.
Polystyrene foam, a synthetic aromatic polymer, is non-biodegradable and is deemed as a pollutant. The sponsors of the new bill reportedly reasoned that foam pollutes waterways and are harmful to animals.
Environmentalists have been trying to make such a point for a long time. The ocean is accumulating plastic debris, which fish, birds, and other marine animals end up eating.
"Plastics biodegrade exceptionally slowly, breaking into tiny fragments in a centuries-long process," reads the post by non-profit organization Algalita, which focuses on plastic pollution. "It entangles and slowly kills millions of sea creatures; that hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often choking them to death."
Polystyrene is commonly called Styrofoam, although the latter is a trademarked brand for a material produced by the Dow Chemical Company. According to Time, Styrofoam products like those used in construction and insulation are not included in the outlawed items.