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Amherst Town Meeting bans Styrofoam

Flickr/ehud42

Restaurants in Amherst that use Styrofoam containers will soon have to find an alternative to the product after members of Amherst’s Town Meeting voted last month to ban the material, beginning in 2014.

The ban comes after news of health and environmental risks associated with the material, which is also known as expanded polystyrene.

One of the key ingredients in Styrofoam, Styrene, has been identified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to Amherst’s recycling Web page. The product also can’t be recycled at many places.

Susan Waite, Amherst’s recycling coordinator, said there are other, “typically organic based,” alternatives to foam containers. “Certain recyclable plastics, bleached paper and even aluminum,” she said, can be utilized as long as they lack a thick plastic lining.

The ban, though, has concerned some local business owners, who worry that an alternative product might cost more. Harold Tramazzo, the owner The Hangar restaurant and Wings Over Amherst, had told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that “it will put some out of business, maybe, and it will certainly raise prices.”

Big businesses in town, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Cumberland Farms and Bertucci’s, will, despite being part of nationwide chains, also be required to adhere to the change.

Waite noted that Amherst would explore the formation of a buying consortium, reducing the cost of non-foam products for small businesses.  She also said that as the demand for more non-foam products increases, the price for them would likely drop.

But, according to reports from Amherst Town Manager John Musante, approximately 70 percent of Amherst restaurants already refrain from using disposable foam products, preferring the alternatives.

And the University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College and Amherst College have removed all foam disposables from their dining halls, according to a report in The Republican.

Amherst is not the only area that is banning the use of foam containers. Nantucket, Great Barrington and Brookline all voted to ban the product in the past, according to The Republican.

If foam containers are used and found in restaurants after the ban has gone into effect, the town’s health department will issue a written warning.  The restaurants that continue to use foam containers after being warned will face a fine of $100, followed by $250 for any subsequent violations.

The town’s Board of Health could issue a one-year hardship waiver to restaurants that apply for one.

The ban is slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2014

 

Catherine Ferris can be reached at cferris@student.umass.edu.

 

 

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