Banning the unknown – Chicago aldermen’s Styrofoam ban is just plain wrong

Hilary Gowins

VP of comms @illinoispolicy. Likes dogs and basketball.

Hilary Gowins
December 21, 2013

Banning the unknown – Chicago aldermen’s Styrofoam ban is just plain wrong

You’re not using Styrofoam. Not if you’re eating takeout, drinking a soda or chugging a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. These disposable food and beverage containers are made from polystyrene. Not Styrofoam. But the public has long confused these two products. (Disclaimer: my last post did not accurately represent Styrofoam, either.) Dow Chemical, the company that produces...

You’re not using Styrofoam.

Not if you’re eating takeout, drinking a soda or chugging a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

These disposable food and beverage containers are made from polystyrene.

Not Styrofoam.

But the public has long confused these two products. (Disclaimer: my last post did not accurately represent Styrofoam, either.)

Dow Chemical, the company that produces Styrofoam, has a long history of combatting product confusion. According to The Washington Post’s WonkBlog:

“Protecting that brand is no small task. Lacey says Dow spends ‘a great deal of time and money’ to do so, with a public affairs staff to keep tabs on the high-profile misuses of the term, and consultants who monitor major media outlets. They typically send out between 25 and 30 cease-and-desist letters annually. A couple years ago, during the congressional cafeteria wars over environmentally friendly plates and utensils, they even had to send letters to House leadership asking them to please stop maligning their product. Usually, Dow says it’s an honest mistake and abusers promise to avoid the term in the future; the company has never actually taken legal action to enforce its rights.”

But it doesn’t look like Chicago aldermen Ed Burke and George Cardenas understand the distinction between trademarked Styrofoam and polystyrene, either.

Burke and Cardenas are convinced that banning nonexistent “Styrofoam” containers would protect the children of Chicago.

Accordingly, these aldermen have proposed an ordinance banning the use of Styrofoam by coffee shops, restaurants, schools and other frequent users, according to the Associated Press.

Burke and Cardenas are pushing this ban because they claim toxic chemicals leech out of Styrofoam containers and into food.

This latest crusade is just one more distraction from the real work that needs done in Chicago, a city strapped with $63 billion in debt from pensions and other obligations, a public school system with a 30 percent freshman dropout rate and a violence problem of monumental proportions – there were 500 murders in Chicago in 2012.

The children of Chicago – and all other residents, for that matter – would be better served by aldermen who have the mettle to face the real issues present in the city instead of chasing misclassified boogeymen.

 

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