Say Goodbye to Styrofoam

Say goodbye to takeout lunch as you know it. As passed by the District Council July 14, styrofoam takeout containers will soon be a thing of the past.

The Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Act of 2014, more formally known as Bill 20-573, was discussed without much opposition in an earlier vote in June, and has now been finalized. This means that as of Jan. 1, 2016, restaurants, grocery stores, cafes and even food trucks will be prohibited from supplying customers with disposable food and drink containers made from plastic foam.

The complete rulings of the bill will take place over the course of two years so that the use of styrofoam containers is slowly phased out in exchange for more environmentally friendly materials. In 2018, the second portion of the bill will go into effect, requiring food and beverage outlets to use only containers made from recyclable or compostable materials. This ban was part of a broad environmental bill introduced by Mayor Vincent Gray last fall.

After D.C. Department of Environment found in 2008 that a significant portion of the trash in the Anacostia River originated from plastic foam objects, the discussion to ban such containers was underway.

Despite facing some opposition from businesses worried about this expensive new burden, the ban was supported by environmentalists who have said that since the foam is not fully biodegradable, it often crumbles into tiny particles that can harm fish in the Potomac and Anacostia rivers.

The new law follows suit to ones passed in Seattle and California as well as the plastic bag tax in D.C. and Montgomery County that began four years ago to reduce the use of non-biodegradable materials, while generating funds to support river cleanup programs.

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