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Case #501

China Bans Styrofoam Take-Out Containers


Polystyrene foam containers are a common nuisance worldwide: they cause pollution in their production, they are a waste of resources since they are used only once, they don't biodegrade for hundreds of years, and they release toxic gases when burned. The styrene may even be a health concern as it can leach out of the packaging and into human fat tissue.

The embarrassed Chinese officials decided to eliminate the problem by banning the use of Styrofoam take-out containers altogether. Production of alternative, disposable boxes made from bamboo, sugar cane stock, straw or hay is well underway. A dozen Chinese cities including Shanghai and Beijing have already banned the use of Styrofoam take-out food containers.


China?s willingness to ban the use of Styrofoam take-out containers is a step forward in eliminating or reducing the environmental problems associated with foam containers. This is an idea that could/should be applied in the Developed World as well. Changing people?s habits and good educational programs would help make this effort acceptable in the Developed World where it might run into resistance. Making low cost, attractive, reusable, and recyclable containers as replacements should easily fall within technological possibilities. Good marketing techniques would make the replacement possible. China?s example is surely replicable in many other parts of the world.
Location: China
Action: Legal
Setting: Third World
Extent of Action: Local
Issues: Environment
Year(s): 1998
Outcome in progress
Source: The New Internationalist, June 1999, p.14


Prepared By: sl 1/02
Rating: 1
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