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Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Washington state bans single-use foam that damages and pollutes waterways for orcas and salmon

By meerna Jun12,2024

A law passed in 2021 in Washington state prohibits the use of single-use polystyrene food and beverage containers.

Made of tiny, hollow beads of various plastics that are extremely brittle, polystyrene is probably the most harmful form of plastic in the environment.

Still approved for use in packaging and other applications due to its lightness, durability and insulating properties, some estimates suggest that polystyrene takes more than 1,000 years to completely decompose, while also releasing microplastics into the soil and water.

According to Oceana, at least 11 states have passed laws to phase out Styrofoam. An environmental group is among those calling for nationwide bans on the material. Seattle banned foam food containers about 15 years ago. Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed a bill last year mirroring Washington’s policy.

Recycling polystyrene is possible, but the Washington Department of Ecology notes that it is expensive and that most residential recycling programs do not accept the foam. Food residue on the material complicates matters further, which is one of the reasons why the ban applies to takeaway containers but not to other uses.

ALTERNATIVES TO FOAM: An Indian start-up uses rice crop waste to produce biodegradable foam packaging instead of burning it

OTHER DECIDED ACTION: In a major victory for the environment, Germany is banning single-use plastics and Styrofoam

Once foam arrives at recycling facilities, it can spread and contaminate other materials, which can also happen while it’s being delivered to the facility.

Violators will be fined, but will also have access to support and resources that will hopefully help them find ways to replace their foam containers with less harmful ones. This could involve replacing foam containers with aluminum containers, which, in addition to being reusable, insulate food for longer.

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By meerna

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