Polystyrene: Morton, we need your help

Katie VandenBerg Owner of Eli’s Coffee

Just once. Just once would I like to take a walk around my beloved Eli’s property and not see Polar Pops tucked between my rose bushes.

Just once would I like to walk my son to Jefferson School to play and not find Polar Pops lying next to the garbage cans in a feeble attempt at being thrown away.

Just once would I like to run down the trail and not have to interrupt my pace to pick up Polar Pops discarded by my predecessors.

Ah, the popular Polar Pop. “It keeps your drink SO cold!” “The soda stays cold ALL day!” “They’re SOOO good!!!” the fans passionately exclaim to me, giddy from the sugar high that is brought on by 32 ounces of soda, when they catch me glaring at their drink.

Maybe I should lighten up. Maybe I should just keep silently picking up the garbage left behind by Polar Pop aficionados. Maybe I should organize neighborhood clean up days, so us ‘green folks’ can feel good about cleaning up our town. I might even throw in a free cup of organic coffee for the volunteers.

On second thought, that’s not really my style; I think I want to take a more drastic measure. I want to ban Polystyrene from our village.

Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and more than 400 other cities and towns have all banned polystyrene, commonly known as styrofoam, which is what make the beloved Polar Pops taste “so good.”

Polystyrene NEVER goes away. It falls apart. It can get so small it’s just a particle the size of an ant, or smaller.

Imagine one Polar Pop broken down into particles the size of ants. That’s still a lot of polystyrene.

What happens to it? Wind blows it to another location, water flushes it down our sewer drains to be cleaned and end up in our landfills, or it sits idly waiting for a sympathetic soul to pick it up and throw it away, ultimately arriving in our landfills.

This means that even in landfills where paper, food and other natural products do hopefully break down, the polystyrene sits.


Sometimes birds eat it, mistaking it for food. This unfortunate bird proceeds to starve because it cannot digest it. Its body thinks it’s full; instead it simply is holding onto the polystyrene until it dies.

Unfortunately, as in most towns, we cannot recycle polystyrene. What’s to be done then? Many polystyrene fans will argue that consumers will simply double cup their beverage to keep it hot or cold.

My response? At least those containers that are double cupped are recyclable.

Let’s take a cue from Seattle: their solution was to ensure that they had the facilities to recycle hard plastics (which we do already and which may be substituted for the polystyrene,) and added a provision to the polystyrene ban that mandated that all take-out food containers must be either recyclable or compostable.

Meanwhile, until we get organized enough to make a significant change, don’t use polystyrene.

Take your own reusable cup to be filled at the convenience store. Ask your favorite restaurants to consider using paper or cardboard as their primary source of take out packaging.

Support business already engrained in green practices. And join me in glaring at Polar Pops until their owner notices and affords you a moment to tell them just how bad their container is for our town.