Food and drink containers made of plastic foam will no longer be allowed for carryout use in the District by January 2016 under a bill signed Tuesday by Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Standing near the shoreline of the Anacostia River, Gray said the ban is another step towards making the river “swimmable, fishable. I know that sounds like a distant goal, an unrealistic goal, but we’re going to make it.”
The 2016 ban is part of a larger set of environmental reforms, some that take effect immediately. They include controls on storm water runoff, support for urban beekeeping and transit benefit incentives for employees at workplaces with at least 20 workers.
The ban on Polystyrene foam-Styrofoam brings the District in line with Seattle and San Francisco among other cities that control its use.
It comes four years after the District implemented a nickel bag-tax on plastic bags. That effort has been praised by environmentalists for keeping stray bags out of the river, while also generating about $2 million a year for an array of river cleanup programs.
The foam container ban affects carry- out containers such as those used by restaurants, carryout storefronts and food trucks. The law includes an exemption for supermarkets that do on site butchering and use foam trays for their meats. But carry-out items at those stores would be covered by the ban, said Keith A. Anderson, director of the District’s Department of the Environment.
The ban, which passed over the objections of the plastics industry, is “a big step” in a 20-year effort to clean the Anacostia, said Doug Siglin, executive of Anacostia River Initiative, a project of the Federal City Council.
The American Chemistry Council repeated its objections to the law in a statement Tuesday. The council said it supports making the District “a more sustainable city, including efforts to reduce waste and improve recycling.” But they argued that the ban would not achieve that.
Opportunities to compost these products don’t currently exist in the city, the chemistry council noted.
“By failing to examine recycling opportunities for polystyrene foam as many communities have” the District “is requiring the use of food service ware that may actually be worse for the environment,” because of the extra energy needed to produce alternatives, the chemistry council said in a statement.