Overturning of Fayetteville Styrofoam ban only hurts environment

Avery Redfern, Co-Head Editor

On Nov. 9, 2019, Fayetteville followed in the footsteps of cities around America and implemented a ban on single-use expanded polystyrene foam, or, as it’s more commonly known, Styrofoam. This meant that everything previously served in Styrofoam containers, ranging from to-go containers to Sonic slushes, had to be a different material.

The ban was implemented for a number of environmentally-focused reasons. The two primary reasons listed on the ban’s ordinance were that polystyrene breaks into small pieces which are near-impossible to clean and a ban on Styrofoam materials would reduce the general litter throughout Fayetteville.

For a while, the ban worked. Single-use Styrofoam is, quite frankly, disastrous for the environment. It presents a challenge in that while it is easily distributed throughout the environment it’s both difficult to process and recycle. In addition, because polystyrene is a petroleum-based plastic, it degrades at an incredibly slow rate compared to more biodegradable plastics.

But, as the pandemic heightened, businesses got used to the ban, and, by Oct. 2020, every restaurant and business in Fayetteville was polystyrene-free.

That was, until, in the wake of new Arkansas legislation, the ban was overturned- for what appears to be little reason.

On April 19, 2021, only a day before International Earth Day, Arkansas legislators not only overturned the ban but, in addition, quelled the discussion of a plastic bag tax in Fayetteville.

The reason why? “[To] Help poor people avoid unfair taxes on using plastic bags,” claimed Rep. David Ray on Twitter. Ray also called the Fayetteville ordinance “stupid.”

A trash can sits overfilled with Styrofoam products. (Jord)

Not only is Ray’s sentiment immature, but it is unrealistic. A study conducted by the University of Chicago discovered that not only did a ban on plastic bags drastically reduce plastic waste and consumption, but the measly tax of five to 10 cents did not disproportionately affect low-income families.

In addition, the implementation of a Styrofoam and plastic bag ban has such positive environmental effects that the economic costs are insignificant in comparison. In some areas where a tax was placed on plastic bags, plastic consumption was reduced by some 90%. Plus, the effects of Styrofoam on the environment are impossible to ignore and dangerous not only to the beautiful natural state of Arkansas but to the surrounding wildlife.

Arkansas’s legislatures’ overturn of the Styrofoam and plastic bag ban is not only irresponsible for the environment but extremely targeting. Seeing as Fayetteville is the only city in Arkansas to actualize a ban, it is clear that Arkansas does not care about helping low-income families, but preventing Fayetteville from creating vital legislature.

To help reduce Fayetteville’s environmental impact and keep our city clean, the ban must be reinstated, and, until it is, Fayetteville cannot truly take strides to improve our city.

Visit this website to sign a petition to reinstate the Styrofoam/plastic bag ban.