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Banned in Brookline: Polystyrene Food and Beverage Containers

Brookline’s Special Town Meeting voted to ban the use of polystyrene food and beverage containers on Tuesday night.

The use of Polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, will be prohibited for take-out or to go in Brookline. Town meeting member Nancy Heller proposed the article due to the health risks.

“Styrene (the chemical found in and released from polystyrene) is noxious to make, does not biodegrade and are on the (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) list of reasonably anticipated carcinogens,” Heller said. The issue with styrene is that it may leach into food and beverages as well as on going environmental concerns. “Styrene is incinerated at landfills or turned into pellets to make new polystyrene,” Heller said. “The environmental effects are reason enough to ban the stuff.

The article passed with 169-to-27. Christine Riley director of corporate social responsibility for Dunkin’ Donuts urged Town Meeting members to vote against the ban because of the negative effect it would have on businesses. Riley said that finding alternatives to Styrofoam would be expensive and futile. Riley said that Dunkin’ Donuts is committed to finding alternative vessels for Styrofoam coffee cups, but have not been able to do so. If that existed, we would be using it,” Riley said. “Banning polystyrene will not reduce waste in Brookline.”

John Hall, a Town Meeting member, also spoke against the ban from an anti-government overreach stance. “Let’s get government out of our coffee cups, Hall said.” If people don’t want to drink out of Styrofoam cups, let them go somewhere else or find another way.”

 Jim Solomon, owner and chef of The Fireplace restaurant in Brookline supported the ban because he felt that businesses would act quicker in using alternatives to Styrofoam if the community encouraged or required them to do so.

Solomon told the crowded auditorium that his business stopped using Styrofoam eight years ago. “I am pro-business, but I also believe that businesses have a corporate responsibility,” Solomon said.

The ban will go into effect on December 1, 2013. Town Meeting will resume tonight at 7 p.m. at Brookline High School. 

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