Styrofoam Banned in Boston?

Is the city about to make the polystyrene foam containers illegal?

styrofoam ban boston

Photo by Sam Kaplan

Pretty much everyone—from the dowdiest environmentalist to the slickest corporate spokesperson—agrees that using Styrofoam in food service is a bad deal for the planet. Polystyrene foam, as the material is generically known, may keep our coffee hot for half an hour, but since it’s not recyclable here, it ends up sitting in landfills, where it will last for centuries. Plus, it’s not renewable.

This month, the City Council is expected to hold a hearing to discuss banning Styrofoam, which would add Boston to the list of 110 municipalities that have done so. This may sound familiar: The city proposed a similar measure in 2009, but industry groups trounced it.

Scott Murphy, then the VP of strategic manufacturing and supply for Dunkin’ Brands (which owns Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins), led the opposition. Not only would such a ban force stores to switch to more-expensive paper, he said, it would also obstruct efforts to create a more environmentally friendly cup.

Three years and 12 million pounds of polystyrene foam later, we’re no closer to a better idea. We’re all for the evolution of the coffee cup, and getting rid of Styrofoam will speed up that process.