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Dec. 16, 2014

Takoma Park passes comprehensive ban against polystyrene eating-ware

by Aidan Keys, Staff Writer
Editor's Note: Article edited at 5:54 p.m. on Dec. 18 to clarify facts.

On Monday, Nov. 10, the Takoma Park City Council passed a city-wide ban against the use of polystyrene eating-ware commonly found in many restaurants and retailers, making Takoma Park the first local government entity to pass a comprehensive ban against polystyrene. Polystyrene is a harmful, non-degradable pollutant found in popular eating ware containers such as Styrofoam cups, clam-shell boxes and plastic cups and lids.

The issue of polystyrene came to the attention of the city council five years ago, when the Young Activist clubs of both Piney Branch Elementary School and Takoma Middle School urged the city council against the use of polystyrene. The Young Activist Club focuses on social/environmental issues and their possible solutions.

Freshmen Margo Bloch and Emily Fox were in the third grade when they joined the Young Activist Club and when the club first started its work against polystyrene. The club focused on polystyrene because it noticed that its school trays were made out of the harmful substance. "We wanted to do something that we thought we could make a difference on," Bloch said.

In order to raise awareness against polystyrene, the Young Activist club testified to the City Council, sent emails and petitioned. The club also made a business pledge for Takoma Park businesses to sign that promised that they would not be using polystyrene. A number of businesses made the pledge. "We got [about] 25 businesses by this," Fox said.

As a result of the efforts of the Young Activist club and the efforts of city council member Seth Grimes, the ban didn't pass with much opposition. This surprised council members, such as Ward Two council member Tim Male. "Honestly, I thought there would be more [opposition] but there wasn't," Male said.

Those businesses which still serve polystyrene products will have six months to exchange them. According to Male, the associations which represent Takoma Park companies will inform the restaurants of the changes that need to be made. Businesses will only have to pay a half cent more per package to afford non-polystyrene materials. Male also said that the council is counting on Takoma Park residents to report the businesses still using polystyrene after the law goes into effect.

According to the Gazette, Takoma Park is the first local government entity to pass a comprehensive ban against polystyrene. Other areas in the country to pass such a ban include Washington DC, New York City and Seattle. Montgomery County is considering a polystyrene ban as well.

Male explained that the collaborative nature of this ban highlights the spirit of Takoma Park. "Takoma Park is a small place. It doesn't take many people to do some good," he said.

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  • Peter Cirincione (View Email) on December 18, 2014 at 8:12 AM
    This story incorrectly states that the cities of Washington, DC, New York City and Seattle are "non government entities." I don't know where this idea came from, but the bans in these "areas" were absolutely enacted by the governments of these cities.

    The Gazette story notes that Takoma Park is the "first area government to implement" the polystyrene ban. What distinguishes Takoma Park from New York City and Seattle that it is in our local area. The fact that Takoma Park's ban will take effect July 1 sets it apart from DC's January 2016 state date.

    This is a great story that demonstrates how young people can bring change to their communities. But truly great journalism requires unvarnished facts. I hope that the writers and editors of Silver Chips can learn from the recent debacle at Rolling Stone and hold themselves to a higher standard of fact-checking.
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