In recent months, and even years, Key West has put into motion many bans in order to keep the local environment healthy. On February 5th, 2019, Key West City Commissioners voted to ban any sunscreen that contained oxybenzone and/or octinoxate, as there was evidence to believe these chemicals are killing off coral. Lately there has been talk about banning plastic bags and straws as well. However, the most recent ban made has been against styrofoam.
The local government has decided to ban several single-use products. Single-use products are disposable silverware and food containers designed to be disposed of as a solid waste after use. One of these bans is targeted at any disposable product made with styrofoam. The most obvious reason the Keys has made this prohibition is the alarming damage single-use products have on the Earth’s environment. The materials in them can take hundreds, if not thousands of years, to deteriorate. This means that single-use products can pervade and build up in the environment over time. To add to that, if these products infiltrate our habitat, the risk of choking, resulting in death, will be higher for animals, specifically birds.
Some people are also concerned with the health effects styrofoam can have on themselves. Styrofoam contains a chemical called styrene. Researchers have found that this chemical can be harmful to our bodies. According to The International Agency for Research on Cancer one of the ways in which styrene can be harmful is that it is a possible human carcinogen for cancer. However, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) has reasoned that there is little evidence to prove this. Yet, they have found reason to believe that styrene can cause headaches, tiredness, leukemia, lymphoma, and even genetic harm in white blood cells.
Styrofoam isn’t the last single-use product being banned, so are plastic bags. The city has been asked for years to enforce the ban, and the reasons are clear why. About 46,000 pieces of plastic are floating in every square mile of ocean.
Plastic waste can harm marine life and pollute beaches. It gets into soil and slowly releases toxic chemicals, as well as getting clogged in recycling machines. Non-plastic bags can produce more greenhouse gas emissions than plastic bags, which means that greenhouse gas emissions may increase on net following plastic bag bans. Not to mention they can also clog waterways and provide a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
These are several reasons why the ban got an overwhelming amount of support from the Key West City Commission. Some felt so passionate that they dressed as “plastic bag monsters” to show their support for the ban against single-use plastic bags. The substitute would of course be green, or jute bags, to stop the use of a mass amount of plastic bags.
Key West isn’t the first to place a ban on plastic bags, states like California and Massachusetts have also decided to ban plastic bags. Seeing as how eco-free and environment friendly Key West is, it’s no surprise that it has decided to join in on the ban.