Five years ago, a proposed law banning the use of polystyrene containers to serve burgers, salads and other prepared foods failed in the state Assembly after heavy opposition from the plastics industry and the Chamber of Commerce. The environmental hazards posed by this form of plastic foam haven’t changed since then, but a lot of other things have.
For one thing, dozens more cities and counties have passed ordinances restricting local businesses’ use of containers made from polystyrene (often referred to colloquially, and incorrectly, as Styrofoam). There are about 100 such ordinances now, mostly in coastal communities concerned about the plastic trash piling up on their beaches and washing out to sea. Polystyrene containers are tough to clean up because they crumble into small particles that slip through screens and eventually into the ocean, where they remain for many years and become a dangerous part of the food chain.