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Cambridge City Council considering polystyrene ban

Posted by Brock Parker  November 20, 2012 01:16 PM

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A week after Brookline approved a ban, Cambridge City Councilors are requesting the city explore prohibiting the use of polystyrene-based disposable food containers.

Without any discussion, the council approved a policy order Monday night requesting City Manager Robert Healy have city lawyers prepare language for a municipal code amendment that would be similar to the polystyrene ban approved by Brookline last week.

City Councilor Leland Cheung said he first raised the idea for a ban in Cambridge during a council committee meeting two years ago, but at the time the city administration seemed reluctant to be the first community to move on a polystyrene ban.

But Cheung said Cambridge is an environmentally conscious city, and now there is a model for a ban within the Commonwealth that the city can study.

“I’m hoping that we can make some headway,” said Cheung, who sponsored the council order Monday along with Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis.

Brookline’s Town Meeting voted last Tuesday to prohibit use of disposable polystyrene for take-out food and beverages packaged in food service establishments in the town beginning in December 2013. Some of the containers are commonly mistaken as Styrofoam, which is a registered trademark of Dow Chemical Co. and is not used for any food or coffee containers, according to the company’s website.

Supporters of the proposal in Brookline were concerned about the waste created by polystyrene containers, but some businesses, including Dunkin’ Donuts, argued against the ban. The company said it is committed to finding an environmentally sustainable alternative to the polystyrene cups it uses, but has not been able to find one.

Cheung did not seem deterred by the objections.

“My perspective is that we have many businesses in the city, many successful cafés and restaurants--both national chains and locally-owned shops--that operate extremely profitably in Cambridge without using Styrofoam,” Cheung said.

Cheung said the council's vote Monday was just a "first step" and even if the proposal goes forward it would likely be several months before a final vote.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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