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Big Issues Come In Small Packages

  • Blog Post by: Paul Austin
  • April 29, 2014 - 5:00 PM

Last week an issue caught me by surprise. 

The City of Minneapolis was considering an ordinance that would require all to-go food and beverage containers provided in the city to be either recyclable or compostable.  The goal was to work toward eliminating Styrofoam containers (which were actually banned in 1990 by a city ordinance that has never been enforced).  We posted a link to the news article on the Conservation Minnesota's Facebook page. 

Within days nearly 700 people had liked the post, nearly 100 shared it, and more than 100 commented on the idea. This response level ended up being close to that of our previous most popular posts regarding sulfide mining and clean waters.  Here at Conservation Minnesota, we like to think that we have our fingers on the pulse of what conservation-minded Minnesotans are following.  And while getting rid of Styrofoam was always on the long list of interesting topics, the strength of the support caught me off guard. 

It probably shouldn’t have.  The city of New York passed a similar ban in December.  Its ban also includes Styrofoam packing peanuts.  Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and a handful of other communities around the country have already outlawed Styrofoam food packaging. 

And it only makes sense.  If you were attempting to make a product that would be as damaging as possible to the environment, you would be hard pressed to invent something as perfect for the task as Styrofoam. Made from petroleum, the product is not biodegradable, so it continues to break down into smaller and smaller pieces, frequently absorbing toxins and either floats around forever, or, is ultimately ingested by wildlife. 

It is important to remember that while big issues may get most of the attention, relatively small changes, like banning Styrofoam food containers, can have an big impact. And it was refreshing to see how excited people are about this topic.   We need to keep an eye out for small steps that provide the catalyst for change in our communities and will help keep our home state a place of abundant & beautiful natural resources. 

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