Brookline Could Ban Foam Plastic

styrofoamStyrofoam container photo via Shutterstock


The march against the single-use lifestyle continues. Last week, the Attorney General certified that Concord’s ban on the sale of water in small plastic water bottles is legal. And yesterday, Brookline residents garnered enough support to propose a ban on (locally packed) foam plastic at November’s Town Meeting. Foam plastic is the stuff of take-out containers, to-go coffee cups and about a bazillion other uses. Your pre-packaged Cup of Noodles is safe, though.

And so here we are at the familiar crossroads between those who want to regulate a problem that doesn’t really exist and those who want to avoid a ripple effect of other problems that could happen much sooner.

In this case, the crux of the problem is its visibility—or lack thereof. Let’s assume that Brookline does a fair job of keeping its streets clear of blowing trash. To opponents of the ban, this looks like Government Gone Wild—legislating the way out of a problem that doesn’t affect residents’ day-to-day quality of life. To proponents of the ban, this initiative (like most environmental ones) is a forward-looking way to cut down on trash and waste going to the landfill or being incinerated—it’s getting ahead of a problem the town doesn’t really have, but might develop.

Meanwhile, opponents of the ban will trumpet how this will hurt businesses like Dunkin’ Donuts, which uses foam cups, or any restaurant that offers take-out containers. The increased expense of not using the cheapest product on the market translates into a business unfriendly environment. (Though somehow boutique coffee retailer Starbucks manages to get along just fine with paper cups).

So if the two sides are always going to fundamentally disagree, how about a trade: Enviros get the ban on foam plastic containers, and in exchange, anyone in Brookline can take the muffler of his car. Deal?