Disposability is an expectation so ingrained in most of us that it takes effort to recognize it. When we buy a takeout meal or a gas station coffee, we assume that someone else will take care of our leftover containers and cups like it’s not our duty to worry about it. But there are consequences to discarding massive quantities of disposable goods.
Fortunately, the Minneapolis City Council has stopped to consider the unnecessary disposables that we generate. The council unanimously voted in May to ban the use of Styrofoam containers beginning April 22, 2015.
Polystyrene, or Styrofoam, a petroleum-derived plastic that virtually never decomposes and isn’t recyclable, is among the most unsustainable options for restaurants. It’s also possible that polystyrene has adverse health effects. Ward 12 Councilman Andrew Johnson introduced the ban and told the Minnesota Daily that polystyrene can leak chemicals into food.
For a city that touts itself as environmentally friendly, banning polystyrene is a logical initiative. It’s estimated that Minneapolis will divert 10 million containers out of the trash stream every year once the ban kicks in, replacing them with more decomposable or recyclable options. However, the ban isn’t new. The city originally passed the ban years ago but never enforced it. This new measure simply reasserts Minneapolis’ commitment to reducing waste.
While there may be economic concerns about the cost of replacing polystyrene with more expensive materials, many local establishments still support the bill. The all-inclusive nature of the ban is equalizing. Since it affects everyone, no one should be at a disadvantage.
Despite the importance of the ban, Minneapolis is the first Midwestern city to give up polystyrene. On the University of Minnesota campus, students and staff likely won’t notice the ban. Many of the area’s restaurants and dining services have already ditched polystyrene. The University model demonstrates that reducing unnecessary disposability can be simple and unobtrusive.