WXXI AM News

Environmentalists: The Styrofoam problem must be eliminated

Feb 21, 2017

The proposal by Sierra Club Rochester Regional Group would ban Styrofoam cups and other polystyrene products from Monroe County.

An online petition, which has collected 186 signatures in the last two weeks, is being circulated by the group. It asks legislators to consider eliminating the material.

“One person wrote that this is a low hanging fruit, which I agree with totally,” said Matthew Brennan, a volunteer activist with the group. “It should be easy.” 

Those behind the movement said Styrofoam has no local recycling option. The material is forced to be placed in your trash, and, according to Brennan, the fact that it does not decompose creates a big problem.  

“Monroe County, for example, will not take food container Styrofoam. They’ll take packing Styrofoam, but the Styrofoam that you might get your food in or your coffee in, they will not take because it needs to be cleaned of the food,” Brennan said.

Environmentalists said Styrofoam consumes a disproportionately large amount of space in landfills because it has a high volume compared to its density. They add that roughly 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups are thrown in the trash annually.

According to Monroe County Communications Director Brett Walsh, so far, only rumors and local news reports have informed County staff of the petition.

“As of right now, we have not seen the petition,” Walsh said.

Walsh said once the group initiates contact, it will be the first time the County has received any such request.

“We will look at it and take a critical evaluation of the benefits to taxpayers and our community, and then we would make a decision going forward,” he said.

Environmentalists would like to replace Styrofoam with a more eco-friendly, bio degradable material.

In 2014, Albany County enacted a Styrofoam ban, and, Brennan said, a similar move is long overdue for Monroe County.

Sierra Club is planning a community event in mid-March to meet with residents who support the movement.