City to Start Developing Polystyrene Ban; Monday

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,309)

On Monday, March 11, a green packaging working group will hold its first meeting.  The meeting starts at 5:00 pm, Room 24 of the city hall, 389 Congress Street.  It has been charged with developing a polystyrene ban.  The group was developed earlier this year by the city council to develop and ordinance that would eliminate the use of containers made of polystyrene foam as well as identify ways to reduce the use of plastic bags within the city. The working group is comprised of representatives from Environment Maine, the Maine Restaurant Association, the Maine Audubon Society, the Maine Grocers Association and several local businesses and Portland residents.

“As we look at ways to improve the environment and reduce waste in Portland, we need to embrace some common sense soljutions,” said City Councilor and Chair of the Green Packaging Working Group Edward Suslovic.  “Polystyrene doesn’t biodegrate, is virtually inmpossible to recycle and has been identified by health experts as a carcinogen.  It’s time we work together to craft a policy that eliminates the risks associated with this produce in a way that maintains the public health and minimizes the impact on local businesses.  I am confident that this group is up to the task.”

Derived from petroleum and containing both styrene and benzene, Polystyrene is a product commonly used in various forms of packaging and has been identified as a chemical product that poses serious environmental and public health risks.  Two years ago, the National Institutes of Health added styrene to is list of substances reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens, with an increased risk when used to store hot foods or liquids.  Polystyrene foam also threatens the environment as it does not biodegrade naturally and when incinerated produces little energy from combustion.  Most forms of polystyrene foam are, to some extent, recyclable.  However, such an effort is extremely costly as no local facility accepts the material for that purpose.  Replacing polystyrene packages with easily recyclable packaging would likely reduce waste and association costs while increase recycling within the city.

More than one hundred cities and counties across the country including, in 1990, Freeport, Maine have enacted bans on the use of Polystyrene.

The working group will also investigate ways to reduce the use of plastic bags within the city.  A 2007 report generated by the Ocean Conservancy stated that plastic bags were the single most common dangerous debris item collected worldwide.  Several U.S. cities and countries including England, Rwanda and Bangladesh have enacted bans on types of plastic bags, according to a press release issued by the City of Portland.