California’s state Senate just voted to ban the sale of Styrofoam containers for food packaging in restaurants and stores.
Instead of the cheap squeaky packages we’re used to receiving our takeout lunch and sodas in, California companies will have to use something more sustainable, biodegradable, and preferably reusable. If this passes through the state Assembly, California will be the first in the nation to ban the dirty material.
Styrofoam, or expanded polystyrene foam, is a frequently littered lightweight plastic that often gets thrown out car windows or left in the park after a picnic, eventually passing through storm drains and into the ocean waters. It is the second most common product littered on beaches, according to the Southern California Coastal Water Quality Research Project.
If you’re wondering what is so awful about Styrofoam, it’s not just that it is littered in excessive quantities (although the numbers are quite alarming), but also the fact that it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade.
It breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces over time, similar to rocks turning into sand. Those Styrofoam cups and plates you used at your 5th birthday party will still exist when your great, great grandchildren are walking the Earth. Gross, right?
So what is California (and hopefully the rest of us, eventually) going to use instead of Styrofoam? Well, one alternative I recently discovered is palm leaf dinnerware. Palm leaves fall naturally from trees and are usually fed to animals or used as compost, but greener companies have collected the leaves, soaked them in natural spring water and hot pressed them to create cups, plates, bowls and other items.
They’re 100% natural and if you check out the palm leaf products in this shop, you’ll discover they’re actually quite nice looking, too. Maybe palm leaf packaging is next in California’s agenda, and over time other states will follow suit. There is so much opportunity in the creation of eco-friendly products, carry-out containers being just one of them. It seems silly to continue using the same harmful products when there are endless ways to create something new and improved (for once, that phrase might actually make sense).
What do you think? Would you scrap the Styrofoam at your next event and try out a more sustainable alternative? If you ask me, it’s about time we say good riddance to Styrofoam, although I will admit that I now have a hankering to jump in a refrigerator box full of packing peanuts.
Image CC licensed by complexify: Styrofoam Mountain