Falmouth’s Styrofoam ban will take effect on Sunday, September 8.
Approved by Falmouth Town Meeting last November, the town banned the sale of polystyrene foam, also known by the brand name Styrofoam, for use in disposable food packaging, including coffee cups or clam shell boxes.
“It is another step toward our goal of a litter-free Falmouth,” Falmouth Litter Reduction Team member Alan Robinson said. “The article for this bylaw, and its passing in November, was sort of the spark that got the Falmouth Litter Reduction Team started.”
The ban was presented to Town Meeting by petitioner J. Malcom Donald. It specifically applies to food packaging, and does not ban Styrofoam floats or chests, items in their original manufacturer’s container or shipping material that originated outside the town of Falmouth.
“This is important in terms of litter itself and what it symbolizes,” Mr. Robinson said. “I think we can all relate to seeing Styrofoam cups and Styrofoam clam shells.”
He said expanded polystyrene foam has significant impacts on the environment, such as acting as a contaminant in curbside recycling, requiring the use of non-renewable fossil fuels for manufacture, clogging storm drainage systems, and contributing to the deaths of marine and terrestrial animals that ingest it.
After approval by the Attorney General’s office, there was a six-month grace period, allowing restaurants to use their existing stock of Styrofoam products. That grace period ends Sunday.
Health agent Scott McGann notified food establishments of the ban in April, and will send a reminder this week. If companies continue to use Styrofoam packaging, he will remind them of the change.
“Early on, I would be more focused toward education,” Mr. McGann said. “First, I would give them a reminder. After that, we would get into the bylaw. For the first offense, it’s $50. Second offense, $100, third offense, $200.”
Residents who see a business continuing to use Styrofoam cups or takeout containers can report the incident to the health department, Mr. McGann said.
“How we’ll find out is through complaints or our routine food inspections,” he said.
One restaurant that previously used Styrofoam was Dunkin’, which has six locations in Falmouth. Dunkin’ announced a plan to transition from polystyrene foam cups to a double-walled paper cup in February 2018.
“We started offering the new double-walled paper cup in Falmouth earlier this summer, and have also rolled it out in New York City, California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, and our NextGen restaurants,” said Justin Drake, senior manager of public relations at Dunkin’.
Mr. Drake noted the new company is more environmentally friendly.
“The new cup is made of paper, which is a renewable resource and decomposes faster than foam,” he said. “In addition, its insulating double walls keep coffee hot while eliminating the need for a sleeve.”
Mr. Robinson said he hopes discarded Styrofoam cups aren’t replaced by discarded paper cups. Though paper cups weather better, decompose and pose less of a threat to marine life, the goal is to reduce litter.
“We hope people recognized why this change was made and be sensitive to the needs of the community,” he said. “We want people to understand the message of this transition from Styrofoam to paper cups and other materials, including re-usable cups.”