Ban­ning con­ve­nience

Wash­ing­ton’s mayor wants to stamp out Sty­ro­foam

The Washington Times Daily - - Editorial -

D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray ap­par­ently wants to be Mayor Bloomberg when he grows up. And it’s not just about Big Gulps. The mayor wants to ban drink cups of all sizes, so long as they’re made of con­ve­nient Sty­ro­foam. That’s a headache for cof­fee drinkers and busi­nesses in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. Cof­fee is to the cap­i­tal what avi­a­tion fuel is to the air­lines, and ban­ning Sty­ro­foam cups wouldn’t re­duce waste very much.

New York City’s med­dle­some mayor, Mike Bloomberg, ac­tu­ally thought up with the idea to ban polystyrene first, but his may­oralty ex­pires on New Year’s Day, and he’s run­ning out of time. The Amer­i­can Chem­istry Coun­cil stud­ied the im­pact of Mr. Bloomberg’s scheme and found that it would cost busi­nesses and con­sumers in New York City nearly $100 mil­lion a year. “For ev­ery $1 now spent on plas­tic foam food ser­vice and drink con­tain­ers,” the coun­cil says, “NYC con­sumers and busi­nesses will have to spend at least $1.94 on the al­ter­na­tive re­place­ments.”

An­drew Moe­sel, a spokesman for the New York State Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion, fur­ther notes that restau­rants are ab­sorb­ing higher food and en­ergy costs al­ready, which is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult for neigh­bor­hood restau­rants. “It’s one more thing to add to the head­winds they’re fac­ing,” he says.

The ban on plas­tic foam is more of the same Bloomber­gian mind­set that prompted the town of Con­cord, Mass., to pro­hibit sin­gle-serv­ing bot­tled wa­ter ear­lier this year. In the birth­place of Amer­i­can lib­erty, the ef­fetes ex­empted sparkling wa­ter from the ban. King Ge­orge III might be pleased.

A sta­ple of cof­fee shops and fast-food car­ry­out restau­rants, polystyrene foam is said by Mr. Gray to be a pro­found en­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ard and thus must be out­lawed. “One need only ride around on the banks of the Ana­cos­tia and the Po­tomac,” Hiz­zoner said at a Wed­nes­day news con­fer­ence, “and you will see the refuse in the river.” Three years ago the city im­posed a 5-cent fee on re­tail use of plas­tic bags, said to be for the cleanup of the Ana­cos­tia River, but the rev­enue was, as they say, “fun­gi­ble.” Rev­enue is rev­enue.

Sty­ro­foam, which isn’t fully biodegrad­able, of­ten col­lects in trash in the wa­ter­ways, but the mayor, like the rest of us, doesn’t know whence it comes. Up­stream in Mary­land or West Vir­ginia? The prob­lem is less one of Sty­ro­foam and more one of lit­ter­ing. It’s eas­ier to ban some­thing use­ful than to en­force the law against dump­ing.

Pa­per cups, the pri­mary al­ter­na­tive to Sty­ro­foam, are not par­tic­u­larly re­cy­clable, ei­ther, nor do they in­su­late as well as plas­tic foam. Pa­per cof­fee cups re­quire dou­ble-cup­ping or in­su­lat­ing sleeves, which create a net in­crease not only in costs but in solid waste.

En­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists who laud the pro­posed ban say Sty­ro­foam makes up a “sub­stan­tial por­tion” of the trash they re­move from the river, but dis­carded tires are a ma­jor part of the refuse pol­lut­ing the Ana­cos­tia, too. So why not ban cof­fee? Or tires? Or even cars? But let’s not give the mayor ideas.

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