Why/How I support a Styro-free Marquette

MARQUETTE, Mich. — Hundreds of municipalities across the United States are banning foam food containers in an effort to reduce plastic waste. Contingent upon Marquette businesses first implementing voluntary self-participation, if elected to City Commission, before the end of 2020, I will propose and support legislative efforts to move Marquette away from single-use plastics and Styrofoam food containers.

I support a #StyroFreeMQT and will be attending the Styro-Free Marquette Meeting tomorrow evening.

The straw in your drink seems small, but the 500 million single-use plastic straws American use every day add up to a big problem for our oceans, lakes and rivers. Join us in making a difference. Say “no thanks” to single-use plastic straws and embrace reusable or biodegradable alternatives.

Polystyrene, trade named Styrofoam, is a type of plastic manufactured from non-renewable fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Not only is it sourced in environmentally unsustainable ways, after production and use,  it threatens our waterways and the ecosystems. Over 30 million pounds of styrene made in the U.S. finds its way into the environment every year. People litter polystyrene foam more than any other waste product.

A common criticism comparing Stryofoam to paper containers is that by weight, it produces less waste. Yet, the foam waste never breaks down. Unlike paper, it does not biodegrade and is not recyclable. Marquette recycles clean paper products. We are equipped to recycle paper, plastics, cardboard, and glass (soon), not foam.

Many restaurants have already met the demand of transitioning, and the initial nominal cost burden on restaurants is in consideration. A phase out may be in order.

Straws must still be made available for people with disabilities.

I’m always first a huge advocate of internal regulation. Primarily, it’s on  businesses to educate themselves and take on initiatives demanded by consumers. It’s why I’ve followed along with the social media group Sytro-free Marquette.  They have been working to incentivize, educate, and participate.

There’s a state law in Michigan that says municipalities can’t out-right ban plastic bags. We need to circumnavigate by showing the state that our businesses do it voluntarily. In order to give our restaurants incentive to participate, the City can develop an education program, a way for small businesses to buy sustainable products collectively in bulk, and help promote their participation with door stickers or a public gratitude listing.

A few things lead me to this position decision, including our participation in Clean U.P. Marquette, when the campaign joined and propelled a viral trend to pick up trash along streets in the city with other volunteers. The litter of single-use plastics and Styrofoam was prolific. Conversations with business owners who have already made the change with positive feedback and minimal cost burdens have also shown me it’s in restaurants’ best interest to meet this consumer demand.

After a meal or on-the-go, consumers do not have a choice in their doggy bags, but many are demanding businesses step up and provide eco-friendly traveling food containers. Several businesses have already made the switch to better packaging – Stuckos, Veirling, Vangos (soon), Border Grill, Donckers, and many others. Substitute products are becoming more readily available and less expensive.

Marquette is now ready for a full transition to a Stryofree city.

New York City’s ban on foam took effect January 1. Foam food containers have been banned in San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami Beach, Portland, Oregon, and over 100 other municipalities in the U.S. Marquette would be the first in the state in Michigan to consider a ban.

The foam sits in landfills for hundreds of years, and can only be recycled if it’s totally clean of all food residue. And according to Resourcefulschools.org, Americans use 25 billion plastic foam cups every year.

  • It does not biodegrade. It may break into small pieces, even minuscule pieces. But the smaller EPS gets, the harder it is to clean up.
  • It is made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Those chemicals may leach if they come in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. Yes, they keep your coffee hot – but they may also add an unwanted dose of toxins to your drink.
  • Animals sometimes eat it. Turtles and fish seem to mistake EPS for food, and that can kill them. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.
  • It can’t be recycled. Some commercial mailing houses may accept packing peanuts, but for the most part community recycling centers do not accept throwaway foam food containers.