LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Twenty years ago, Jim Foster says, the Anacostia Watershed Society was busy trying to get tires out of the river.
Now that the big stuff is more or less gone, and dumping has been made a felony, AWS’s focus is on the smaller stuff that gets washed into the water after being tossed on the ground.
Styrofoam, for example.
Foster, president of AWS, says he’s glad that D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s “Sustainable DC Act of 2013,” lists banning Styrofoam in the city as a step toward its ultimate goal of making waterways like the Anacostia “fishable and swimmable” by 2032.
When they were first introduced, Styrofoam (otherwise known as polystyrene) containers became popular with restaurants because of their lightweight, moisture-proof properties. They have since fallen out of favor because they take so long to biodegrade and are widely thought to be non-recyclable.
If passed by the D.C. Council, the ban would be in full swing by 2018.
Foster spoke in favor of the ban at a council meeting last week.
“We’re trying to create a sustainable world here,” he says. “We’re smarter than this.”
He has high hopes for the success of Gray’s proposal.
“Just like with the bags, we’ll look back and say ‘Remember when we had all that trouble with Styrofoam?'” he said, referencing the plastic bag tax that has cut down on bag litter in the city.
Some West Coast cities, including Portland and San Francisco, already have polystyrene container bans in place. According to CBS News, the New York City council voted in December to ban polystyrene containers if a yearlong study done by the city’s sanitation department concludes that it cannot be recycled effectively.
Shortly after Baltimore’s city council backed off of a planned ban of Styrofoam products in mid-2013, CBS Baltimore reported that it was partly because of local business owners complaining that other types of take-out containers could cost four times as much as Styrofoam and eat into their bottom lines.
Styrofoam ban opponents have also said foam manufacturers would lose their jobs if the material were to be banned.