New York City Has Officially Banned Foam Takeout Containers

iStock.com/Warren_Price
iStock.com/Warren_Price

New York City introduced a bill in 2018 that aims to ban plastic straws, and this year the city has set its sights on eliminating another environmental scourge: single-use foam containers.

As Grub Street reports, a foam ban went into effect on January 1, but businesses have until June 30 to comply. Beginning July 1, 2019, any businesses caught using the to-go containers will be fined. The law applies not only to takeout containers, but also to foam coffee cups, bowls, and plates as well as packing peanuts.

City officials initially approved the so-called "Foam Ban" in 2013, citing environmental concerns. However, as The New York Times points out, the containers are often incorrectly labeled as Styrofoam—a trademarked product made by Dow Chemical that isn’t used in disposable food containers.

More specifically, the containers are made of a type of plastic foam that’s not biodegradable and also notoriously hard to recycle. New York City's ban went into effect in July 2015, but a judge overturned it three months later, after the restaurant industry banded together and sued the city. The restaurant coalition argued the city could recycle the material and even save money by doing so. Of course, there were other motivating factors: Alternatives to plastic foam food containers are more expensive.

The legal battle continued into 2017, when another judged ruled in favor of the city and said the ban could be reenacted. However, the government is making special exceptions for nonprofit organizations and small business owners who can demonstrate that the ban would significantly hurt their operations. Also exempted are butcher shops, which use the foam containers for raw meat.

Meanwhile, a similar foam ban just took effect in the city of Rockville, Maryland. Dozens of other cities have banned the material, including Washington, DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. As for the proposed plastic straw ban in New York City: whether the city will follow the example set by Seattle and other cities remains to be seen.

[h/t Grub Street]

Your Balloons Are Bad for Seabirds

iStock.com/Image Source
iStock.com/Image Source

Bad news, party planners: Your balloons are killing birds. A new study spotted by Live Science reveals that these colorful decorations often end up in our oceans, where seabirds mistake them for squid and consume them.

The team of Australian researchers studied more than 1700 seabirds belonging to 51 different species. One in three of the birds had plastic in their systems. Researchers also found that the birds had a 20 percent chance of dying after ingesting a single piece of debris. Though hard plastics were consumed in greater quantities by seabirds, balloons proved to be far deadlier. Eating them is “32 times more likely to result in death than ingesting hard plastic,” researchers write in their paper, published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Marine debris ingestion is now a globally recognized threat,” Lauren Roman, who led the study, said in a statement. “Among the birds we studied, the leading cause of death was blockage of the gastrointestinal tract, followed by infections or other complications caused by gastrointestinal obstructions.”

The study also highlighted another startling statistic: 99 percent of all seabird species are predicted to ingest marine debris by 2050. That is of great concern in Australasia, which is home to the world's highest biodiversity of seabirds. Albatross and petrel species are particularly under threat, but the exact role that debris plays in that is not fully known.

Similarly, a survey from last December found microplastics in the guts of all seven sea turtle species that were studied, including the endangered green turtle and critically endangered hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles. However, these particles are smaller than balloon bits, and the consequences of ingesting microplastics are still being studied.

According to researchers, the most obvious and immediate solution is to reduce the amount of waste entering oceans.

[h/t Live Science]

Greta Thunberg, 16-Year-Old Swedish Environmental Activist, Has Been Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Maja Hitij/Getty Images
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Greta Thunberg hasn't graduated high school yet, but she's already a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. As TIME reports, the Swedish activist is being considered for the honor in recognition of her work in the fight against climate change.

The 16-year-old first made news in August 2018, when she led a school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament. That first demonstration has evolved into the Fridays for Future movement, in which young people around the world skip class on Fridays to protest outside their nearest town hall. In addition to her on-the-ground activism, Greta Thunberg has also given a TED Talk on climate change and addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland on the subject.

Three Norwegian lawmakers nominated her for the Nobel Peace Prize, with parliamentary representative Freddy Andre Oevstegaard telling the Norwegian media outlet VG, “We have nominated Greta because the climate threat may be one of the most important causes of war and conflict.” If she wins the award in October, she will become the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate ever. Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she won for her work defending children's education, currently holds that title.

More than half a year after leading her first climate protest, Thunberg's movement is going strong. Student protests set for Friday, March 15 are expected to be the largest Friday for Future demonstrations yet, with tens of thousands of students in 100 countries planning to participate.

[h/t TIME]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER