Brookline special Town Meeting approves ban on Styrofoam containers at food service establishments

BROOKLINE — A special Town Meeting voted Tuesday night to ban the use of Styrofoam in the town for takeout food containers and beverages.

By a vote of 169-to-27, the Town Meeting elected to prohibit the use of disposable polystyrene, also known by its trademarked name Styrofoam, for food and beverages packaged in food service establishments in Brookline.

As a result, Dunkin’ Donuts and other restaurants that serve hot coffee in plastic foam cups will have to use an alternative cup in town, beginning in December 2013. “It seems to me that the environmental effects are reason enough to ban this stuff,’’ said Nancy Heller, the Town Meeting member who proposed the ban.


The ban on polystyrene food and beverage containers comes as Town Meeting will also consider a proposal this week to prohibit retail establishments from issuing customers disposable plastic checkout bags, unless the shopping bags are compostable and marine-degradable.

Heller proposed the ban on Styrofoam containers after learning earlier this year about a similar ban in effect in Great Barrington since 1990.

She said she has concerns about the environmental impact of polystyrene containers because while the material can be recycled, the process is cumbersome, and residents in Brookline cannot put plastic-foam containers in with other recyclable materials that are picked up by the town.

Instead, residents wishing to recycle the containers must take them to the Department of Public Works on special dropoff days each year.

But Christine Riley, the director of corporate social responsibility for Dunkin’ Brands, urged Town Meeting members not to vote in favor of the ban because she said it will cost businesses more money to use alternatives to polystyrene containers. Riley said Dunkin’ Donuts is committed to finding a sustainable alternative to the coffee cups it uses, but has not been able to find one. “If that existed we would be using it,’’ Riley said.

Town Meeting member John Hall also spoke in opposition to the ban, saying that if someone does not want to drink coffee out of a Styrofoam cup, they should go somewhere that serves coffee in a different container.


Hall said the ban would be a case of a government that is beginning to overreach. “Let’s get government out of our coffee cups,’’ Hall said.

Jim Solomon, the chef and owner of The Fireplace restaurant in Brookline, supported the ban because he said businesses will move faster to using substitutes for Styrofoam if communities encourage or require them to do so.

Solomon said his restaurant has switched to bio-degradable containers out of concern for the environment. “I’m pro-business, but I also believe that businesses have a corporate responsibility,’’ Solomon said.

Town Meeting will reconvene in Brookline High School Wednesday at 7 p.m. and is expected to vote on another proposal that would prohibit some retailers from using non-compostable and non-marine degradable plastic checkout bags.

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