An open letter to the Pittsfield City Council:
Those of you who saw last two meetings of the Ordinance and Rules committee meeting of the Pittsfield City Council witnessed numerous statements by DART, a manufacturer of what is commonly called “styrofoam,” say that styrofoam does not breakdown when heat or acidity is added.
STYRENE IN THE FOOD OR BEVERAGES
Just like their false statements about expanded polystyrene being okay for the environment, just like their false statements about the necessity of the product in the food service industry, this is another false statement.
But I wanted you to see for yourself what a misrepresentation this was. I hope you take the time to watch these short videos.
You won’t see this video on Facebook too much—it only has 75 views. But just look at how citrus products quickly and readily breakdown styrofoam;
This person doesn’t even have a beef with styrofoam, in fact he likes the stuff. But he sprays on the juice from citrus fruits from a regular aerosol can, and in 2 hours the styrofoam cup completely disintegrates.
Here is another video:
The point is, with acidity Styrofoam disintegrates.
HEALTH HAZARDS OF STYRENE
Let me tell you some straight facts about Styrofoam:
Contrary to what Dart said at the ordinance and rules meeting, styrene, the main component of polystyrene or “Styrofoam” is a carcinogen.
I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but I will say it again.
The National Toxicology Program, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2011 added styrene to its “reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen” list. The abstract of the study reads, “Styrene is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on limited evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans, sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals, and supporting data on mechanisms of carcinogenesis.” Styrene is also considered a possible human carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Styrene migrates from the containers into food and beverages when heated or in contact with fatty or acidic foods. In fact, the studies of the deleterious effect of polystyrene on health and the environment are voluminous.
Want to see this Government study? Click here:
Why does the industry keep saying there are no studies to prove it is dangerous? Why? They have done this at 3 meetings of Ordinance and Rules, and one with the Green Commission (which unanimously voted for a ban).
Yet repetitiously, the folks at DART kept saying that there was no known research linking styrene with cancer. If the industry presented this as a debated claim, well, that would have been a weak argument but it would have been one thing. But they claimed, on four different occasions, that this was a safe substance.
In reality, all humans have styrene in them. Here is a fact sheet from Clean Water Action. Read the part about “Human Exposure” and accompanying footnotes. They say:
To watch the ABC news report about Styrofoam being a possible carcinogen, click HERE.
RECYCLABILITY—ANOTHER INDUSTRY MISREPRESENTATION
Again, Dart repeatedly said they had a recyclable product. It isn’t. In fact, the nearest facility is in Leominster. And there is no market for the product because it is so expensive.
Sure, in a laboratory, you can recycle the stuff. If you took a clean Styrofoam cup, you could make another one out of it. But to use a dirty Styrofoam container, wash it, recycle it, and cost effectively sell the new product cannot be done. I know it, but more importantly, DART KNOWS IT. But they said otherwise.
Here is a great video, “Why we don’t recycle Styrofoam” that is on Youtube.com
IT CANNOT BE SAFELY INCINERATED
Dart once again said that Styrene can be safely broken down—it cannot. Tim Wright, a chemist, said so much. I wrote this before, but I will cut and paste it again:
Pittsfield uses a mass burn incinerator, Covanta Pittsfield. Ejnet.org, the web source for Environmental Justice Activist, debunks the claim that polystyrene when incinerated at high temperatures breaks down into “harmless” chemicals of carbon dioxide (which causes global warming) and water. It states, “When polystyrene was burned at temperatures of 800-900 Celsius (the typical range of a modern incinerator), the products of combustion consisted of a complex mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from alkyl benzenes to benzo [ghi] perylene. Over 90 different compounds were identified in combustion effluents from polystyrene.” It added, “With the addition of chlorine donors as simple as table salt, it is inevitable that combustion of polystyrene in municipal solid waste incinerators will contribute to the formation of highly chlorinated polycyclic compounds like dioxins, furans, hexachlorobenzene, and chlorophenols. It is this family of compounds that are some of the most biologically active toxins known to humans.”
THE COST IS OVERSTATED
There were extreme exaggerations on cost. Cumberland Farms actually said that if they used a more expensive cup, profits on coffee would be halved. I would assume the council has made a cup of coffee and would realize that a small increase in the cup—even a substantial one in fact—would not cut in half the profit of a $1, let alone a $3.50 coffee.
I wrote an article on this topic:
To read, “What is the cost of Styrofoam and what is the cost of the alternatives? click HERE.
Within the article, I provided a link to alternatives you can read by clickingHERE.
THE OPPOSITION IS SMALL
As repeatedly stated before, when Amherst enacted the ban on Styrofoam, 70 percent of all business did not already use the product. That is hardly uncommon—Mazzeos Restaurant, Juice-N-Java, the Marketplace Café, and Dotties do not use styrofoam, as do many, many more businesses.
But apart from Dart, the turnout out has been small.
Contemplate these facts
The Board of Health on July 27, 2015 letter sent out a to all licensed food establishments in the City of Pittsfield. No environmental groups were invited for input, and the notice to the public was the usual posting, which had incidentally been cancelled the last two times.
The letter was from Gina Armstrong, Director, Pittsfield Health Department.
I have in my hand as I type this an invitational list. On each page, are 30 businesses complete with business address that were invited. There are 11 full pages, with 5 more on the 12 page. So 335 Food were invited to come and provide input.
I did not personally watch the meeting live, but did watch the replay on City Channel. (There is a free watch-per-view plan where you can click on a meeting and watch it.)
Apart from Dart, which is the company that sells Styrofoam, as Jim McGrath has already pointed, only Freddies, Pizza Works and Cumberland farms. There was only one other person that worked for non-profits.
I want to repeat this point. After receiving a formal invitation to come and speak at the Ordinance and Rules Committee, of the 335 invited licensed food establishments that are licensed in the city of Pittsfield, only three (3) businesses came and voiced opposition.
Great Barrington has had a ban now since 1990–25 years ago. Apart from Cumberland Farms, there have been complaints. In fact, some of the businesses notified had a Great Barrington affiliate—apart from Cumberland Farms, they did not come. Incidentally, some of the businesses had branches in Great Barrington, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and the Beacon Cinema (Triplex Theaters in GB).
The reason for the additional public hearing (there had been 2 already) was controversial–despite this being a major news story covered by print, radio and television at great length, some on the city council were saying business did not know.
Now we really know. All 335 licensed food establishments in the City of Pittsfield were invited. I want to repeat that–335! By “invited” I mean with a formal letter sent to them from the Director of the Board of Health to come to a Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee meeting. After that extra-ordinary effort (no similar efforts were made towards the input of environmental groups such as BEAT, the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action or like groups), 3–just 3, came: Freddies, Pizza Works and Cumberland farms.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III