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Love It or Hate It, Styrofoam May Be Boulder's Next Target

Polystyrene kai hendry flickr.jpg
Kai Hendry
Creative Commons/Flickr

There are probably few products that provoke as much reaction as polystyrene -- best known under the brand name Styrofoam.

The product gets low marks from the environmental community, in part because it's made with petroleum and other toxic chemicals, and isn't easily recyclable.

Then... there's the sound. Many people (full disclosure here: I am one of them) absolutely hate the cringe-inducing squeak of a Styrofoam cup being set on a table. Or the awful sound of removing an object from its Styrofoam packaging.


Now the city of Boulder may do something about polystyrene (though not because of the sound). University of Colorado student Alexandra Brower is leading the charge to ban the use of Styrofoam, beginning with an online Change.org petition addressed to City Manager Jane Brautigam.

Boulder wouldn’t be the first city in the U.S. to ban the use of polystyrene. A number of West Coast cities and counties [.pdf] have placed restrictions on the use of Styrofoam, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may push for an all-out ban.

There’s a big gap in what consumers and city officials may want to do and what they can do. A Colorado statute prevents local governments from banning the “use or sale of specific types of plastic materials or products.”

Boulder approved a 10-cent fee for disposable plastic grocery bags several months ago, but stopped short of an outright ban, possibly because of the statute. The Boulder City Council has indicated it may support repealing that prohibition, according to the Daily Camera.

Until that happens, Brower plans to focus on an incentive-based system to discourage retailers and consumers from using Styrofoam.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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