Remember a few years back, when local governments began talking about banning plastic bags for both aesthetic and environmental reasons? Some people had simply grown tired of looking at bags hanging from bare tree branches in the winter. Others worried about the impact they would have on landfills and in our oceans, where they take forever to decompose, and release toxins when they do.
The effort to eliminate those bags spurred plenty of opposition — from politicians, who questioned whether it was the role of local government to mandate the kind of bags shoppers use, to lobbyists for the plastics industry, who predicted economic ruin for their clients.
In the end, the move to ban single-use plastic bags made its way all the way to the county level, and nobody seems any worse off for it. We remember to bring our reusable bags with us each time we go to the grocery store or ante up a nickel for each bag we buy.
Fast forward to today and the recent discussion by local governments across the East End to ban Styrofoam products. The East Hampton Town Board wasted little time in adopting its ban, doing so shortly after closing a hearing on the matter on January 17. It joins East Hampton Village, which adopted its own ban last year. Meanwhile, the Southampton Town Board was encouraged to take swift action on its own ban, one that goes a step further by outlawing plastic straws, when it held its own hearing on January 22.
Everyone, it seems, is aware of the impact Styrofoam, and similar non-recyclable products are having on our environment.
Unlike the debate over plastic bags, there were no lobbyists present to argue that takeout food sales would plummet if delis did not have access to Styrofoam containers or that coffee breaks would be spoiled by the absence of Styrofoam cups. Instead, it seems like just about everyone has reached the same conclusion that McDonald’s, the fast-food giant, came to years ago: Styrofoam is simply no longer needed.