Stop using Styrofoam

To the editor:

Styrofoam. It seems to be everywhere: a coffee cup at the drive-up window, the containers for leftovers and take-out food from any number of local restaurants and delicatessens. It’s in our UPS deliveries. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s inexcusable.

Styrofoam has a decomposition lifetime of infinity. It will not biodegrade. We create it, and it’s here forever. All those Styrofoam take-out containers that brought home your leftover shrimp Scampi in 1964? They are still in the landfill somewhere.

In 1988, when my son Spencer was a tiny baby, I marched back and forth in front on McDonald’s on Sixth Avenue and Bleecker Street, right around the corner from where we lived, to protest their use of Styrofoam. They listened, and in 1990 they stopped using Styrofoam for their food packaging, and in 2012 they stopped using Styrofoam for their hot beverage cups. It is possible to find alternatives.

Last night I visited a new local restaurant and was surprised to see that they were using Styrofoam take-out containers. When I mentioned to the waitress that alternatives were available, she said, “Well we are using paper straws.” I am here to say that Styrofoam is worse. The Environmental Protection Agency and International Agency for Research on Cancer consider Styrofoam a possible human carcinogen. It leaches into food and is a hazard to the 90,000 workers who face exposure to the effects of polystyrene in rubber and fiberglass manufacturing companies.

The fact that it is still in use is a symbol of the lethargy of my generation to face the environmental damage that we have done and continue to do. The generation before mine was the Greatest Generation. I can’t decide if my generation is the Oblivious Generation, the Greediest Generation or the I Don’t Care About My Grandchildren Generation. It’s time to wake up. We can’t go on as we have. It’s time to snap out of it and pay attention to cause and effect, and the damage that we have done and somehow willfully continue to do. Banning plastic straws is great, but we should hardly pat ourselves on the back when we have so much more to do. I urge you to speak up at restaurants and delis when they bring out a Styrofoam container. Complain to the companies that ship your item swimming in a box of Styrofoam peanuts. As consumers we have power to effect change, but only if we speak up. It may be a tiny thing in the grand scheme, but at least it’s something.

Gail Brill

Saranac Lake

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