Credit to Environment Minnesota for the article: https://environmentminnesota.org/feature/mne/wildlife-over-waste
Every day people are throwing away tons of single-use cups, containers and other plastic “stuff.” Among the worst forms of plastic pollution is polystyrene foam (the stuff most of us call Styrofoam), which never fully degrades. Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our oceans and rivers and threaten wildlife for centuries. That’s why we’re calling on state leaders to ban take-out foam cups and containers.
A costly mistake
For a bird or fish or turtle, it’s easy to mistake a small piece of plastic for food—especially when there are millions of pieces of plastic floating in our rivers and ultimately our oceans.
Scientists have found plastic fragments in literally hundreds of species, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species, and 43% of all marine mammal species. Ingesting these fragments is often fatal. Animals can starve when they ingest too much plastic that they can’t digest. When animals ingest plastic waste, it can block their digestive tracts. As a result, they starve. Toxic chemicals in plastic can harm animals’ health—and people can ingest these chemicals as they make their way up the food chain.
Pollution that lasts for hundreds of years
Scientists are still documenting the scope of plastic pollution and investigating its effects. But for decades we’ve known that one of the worst forms of plastic pollution is polystyrene foam, the kind used in foam cups and take-out containers, what most of us call Styrofoam.
Polystyrene foam breaks apart easily, but it persists in the environment in tiny particles—and every bit of it ever made is still out there and could continue to threaten wildlife for hundreds of years to come.
Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our rivers and oceans for hundreds of years—especially when we don’t really need it. That’s why, along with our national network, we’re calling on more than 25 states to ban take-out foam cups and containers.
Moving beyond plastic pollution
Of course, there are plastics companies that don’t like this idea. Earlier this year, their opposition helped block a bill banning plastic foam containers in California.
But across the country, plastic foam bans have passed in over 200 cities and other communities, from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Me. Some companies are also getting with the program. By the end of this year, McDonald’s will phase out foam cups and containers worldwide, in favor of 100% recycled materials. It’s time to take this effort to the next level, but we’re going to need all the support we can find.
Our national network has won similar efforts to reduce waste and plastic pollution, from statewide pro-recycling laws to the first statewide plastic bag ban in California. We know how to combine professional research and advocacy with citizen support to get results.