Miami Beach recently became the first city in the state of Florida to ban the use of Styrofoam. Littering with Polystyrene items—including cups, plates, and take-away containers—is subject to a fine of $50 that increases incrementally to $500 with each consecutive violation. The city hopes this ban will prevent Styrofoam material from being strewn in the bay and oceans in the future. Another objective of this ban is to encourage environmentally friendly packaging, since the use of Styrofoam has proven drawbacks that impact both health and the environment. Among several health dangers of using Styrofoam is that the carcinogenic chemicals it is made from, such as styrene, can leech into your food.
Styrofoam also has detrimental effects on the environment. The reason Styrofoam seems to last forever is because of its resistance to photolysis—the breaking down of particles caused by light. In fact, Styrofoam may take five hundred years to decompose. It is therefore no surprise that the Atlantic Ocean has a problem with debris caused by non-degradable products such as Styrofoam. In addition, the manufacturing of this product involves hydrofluorocarbons, which have been linked to damaging the ozone layer and contributing to global warming. In a city that was visited by 15.4 million people in 2015, it is crucial for the ocean to be free of the kind of toxic litter that will take centuries to degrade and can affect various forms of sea life. In a California study, at least 162 marine species digested non-biodegradable plastic that either harmed or killed them. Economic arguments have been made in favor of using Styrofoam. Because it is cheap to produce, accessible, and lightweight, small businesses are in favor of using Styrofoam. Therefore, environmentalists have a hard time getting support for movements such as this one because it requires economic sacrifices that are necessary for real environmental reforms.