I love to dine out, but I’m not a member of the clean plate club and rarely finish what is on my plate. That being said, I lived for three and half years in Guayana’s hinterland, which instilled in me a firm ethos – leave no food behind. So when I eat out, more often than not I wind up requesting a box for my leftovers. Sometimes, my to-go box is made of recycled plastic, or other bio-material, such as mushrooms. More frequently, my leftovers are handed to me in a plastic foam container, which negates all of my attempts at reducing waste.
With a foam box, I don’t waste my biodegradable food, but I do I bring home a container that will probably join billions of other similar containers that are trucked to landfills, or wind up drifting through storm water channels with the rest of the urban runoff into our waterways. In any of these circumstances, it will take eons to break down, so when the next civilization excavates our histories instead of unearthing clay bowls and gold pots, archaeologists will dig up plastic foam.
This past week, I read that New York City is seeking to enact a ban on plastic foam containers, which would make New York City the first city on the East Coast to do so. Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and San Fransisco have already placed partial or complete bans on the toxic containers.
Here in Baltimore it is possible to recycle “Styrofoam,” but it is not easy to do so. Consumers need to take their cleaned foam containers to the Northwest Citizen’s Convenience Center located at 2840 Sission Street. More information can be found on the Department of Public Works website.
Bans and recycling programs are great, but we need to begin making conscious changes to our consumption habits:
- Compostable, eco-friendly containers are becoming increasingly available, and don’t cost that much more than their chemically engineered health and environmentally hazardous plastic cousins. Restaurants should be purchasing these alternatives. I’d be willing to pay a few cents more for an eco-friendly to-go container. (We’re already paying for the plastic ones in clean up and healthcare costs).
- When dining out, consider bringing in your own to-go-container. No Thro: Reusable Containers To Go has a great selection of containers to choose from.
- When choosing biodegradable or compostable products, pair them with an effective composting program.
Plastic foam containers don’t need to be our legacy. What other ways can you take action?
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