Ban EPS (aka Styrofoam) from Monroe County, NY.

It is time to eliminate expanded polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam) from Monroe County. As the federal government turns its back on environmental conservation, local citizens must pick up the slack.

Despite the little 6 found on the bottom of most Styrofoam products, Styrofoam is virtually impossible to recycle. In Monroe County, Styrofoam is not accepted at curbside pick-up. Persistent individuals aiming to recycle packing Styrofoam can deliver it to the Monroe County EcoPark near the airport, but single-use food containers remain unrecyclable. According to the EcoPark’s website: “Styrofoam meat trays, egg cartons, coffee cups, takeout containers or other small post-consumer items have no local recycling option and should be placed in your trash.” This is partially because Styrofoam breaks down so easily that, if someone tried to clean it, all they would get is a mess of tiny beads.

So what? One more small item in the trash. The problem is that Styrofoam does not decompose. Not on a human time scale, anyway. This means that every Styrofoam coffee cup thrown out will continue to occupy space virtually forever; add that to the fact that roughly 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups are thrown in the trash annually and the problem starts to become evident. In fact, Styrofoam consumes a disproportionately large amount of space in landfills because it has such high volume compared to its mass. Ten pounds of Styrofoam takes up about as much space as a household refrigerator in a landfill. The same problem makes it difficult to store in/transport to proper recycling facilities.

A landfill might be the best case scenario, though. Because it is so light, Styrofoam is easily swept away by the wind into waterways, roadways, parks, and other areas. Styrofoam photo-degrades, meaning that sunlight causes it to break up into smaller and smaller pieces, making it increasingly difficult to clean up and more likely to confuse a small animal into eating it.

Styrofoam is made of fossil fuels and other chemicals. Buying it supports an industry that contributes to climate change. Incinerating it, as happens in certain waste facilities, releases its dangerous components into the atmosphere. There is some research that suggests that Styrofoam poses more direct threats to human health, as well. In the early 1980’s, the EPA found styrene, the primary molecular building block of Styrofoam, in 100% of human fat samples collected in every state in the continental US. In 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services classified styrene as a carcinogen. Sufficient heat, possibly the quantity generated by a fresh coffee, could allow that styrene to leach into beverages and be consumed.

Styrofoam has remained so prevalent for so long because it is cheap and effective at retaining heat. That hardly seems redeeming for all the problems it causes.

This is an opportunity to make a significant difference at the local level. In 2014, Albany County enacted a Styrofoam ban. It is long overdue for Monroe County. If you are a registered voter in Monroe County, please consider signing the petition and please make sure to include your address; if local lawmakers do not think that their constituents care about this, then neither will they. Lastly, please consider personally contacting your representative in the Monroe County Legislature. 

To read the specific text of Albany County’s ban, please use the following URL:


This petition will be delivered to:
  • Monroe County Legislature

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