As a conservationist, ocean lover and resident of Washington, DC, I have some exciting news to share! Last week, lawmakers in our nation’s capital voted to ban the use of plastic-foam food and drink containers throughout the District by 2016. This is a fantastic step for the health of the Anacostia River and a major step towards trash-free seas!
Each year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, we see massive quantities of foam polluting beaches, waterways and coastlines—1.2 million items of foam during the 2013 Cleanup alone. And foam doesn’t just disappear. A best-case scenario would have a single plastic-foam cup fully “biodegrading” in 500 years; however, it’s likely that these plastics will never truly go away. Foam is lightweight and brittle, fragmenting into small pieces at the slightest touch. These properties are the very reason it disperses so easily and widely on beaches and into rivers and marine environments. With each piece of foam that fragments into waterways or the ocean, the likelihood that fish, sea turtles, or seabirds will mistakenly eat those plastic bits increases, threatening the health animals and our oceans.