A Saanich councillor wants the Capital Regional District (CRD) to ban single-use Styrofoam cups and containers.
Coun. Ned Taylor said these items have a negative impact on oceans, streams, wildlife, other aspects of our natural environment. They litter streets, parks and other parts of the urban infrastructure, he said.
“Single-use [Styrofoam] cups and containers, although convenient, are wasteful and unnecessary,” he said. “There are alternatives readily available to businesses and residents which are proven to be less harmful, less wasteful, and equally as convenient.”
It is not clear how many Styrofoam cups and containers are circulating through the region, but the figure is likely significant, when extrapolating from other jurisdictions. Consider the United States, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that residents of that country trash approximately 25 billion Styrofoam cups and take-out containers every year.
A number of North American jurisdictions plan or have already banned single-use Styrofoam cups and containers, with the European Union (EU) being the most significant. It will ban them by 2021 as part of a larger ban that includes almost a dozen single-use products including plastic plates, cutlery, cups, straws, plastic sticks in cotton swabs, balloon sticks and stir sticks.
The Canadian government has recently announced that it plans to closely follow the EU initative without being specific about whether it plans to ban Styrofoam cups and containers.
Styrofoam cups and containers are not just a source of physical waste. Their manufacture and nature also pose a number of environmental and health risks
Styrofoam — the trade-marked name for polystyrene — is a product made out of petroleum, a non-sustainable resource, whose production releases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which contribute to climate change and undermine the Ozone layer protecting Earth from harmful radiation.
While recyclable, Styrofoam is non-biodegradable and scientists consider it a major source of marine debris affecting aquatic life.
Medical research has also identified Styrene, the primary ingredient of polystyrene, as a possible human carcinogen that can impact the human nervous and reproductive systems.
Taylor’s demand to ban single-use Styrofoam cups and containers appears in a notice of motion that he, fellow Saanich Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, and Gary Holman, director for the Salt Spring Island Electoral Area, made at the most recent meeting of the CRD’s parks and environment committee meeting.
It calls on staff to report back with “options and implications for creating a model bylaw to ban single-use styrofoam cups and containers.” The committee will discuss the motion next month. If approved, it will go to the full board for discussion. Staff could then take up the work in late summer, early fall, assuming board approval.
Taylor, who does not have specific figures about the number of Styrofoam cups and containers circulating in the region, said it is not clear yet when staff would come back with a report.
“However, with multiple municipalities in the CRD implementing the plastic bag ban, I’d like to see us start the process on banning other single use waste items as well,” he said.