Chicago Might Finally Get It Right With Plastic Bans That Don’t Hurt The Disabled Community

Charli Renken Charli Renken

styrofoam ban

Chicago continues to move toward a more sustainable future when it comes to single-use foodware.

In an effort to reduce the city’s plastic pollution, Chicago may soon ban styrofoam foodware, as reported by Block Club Chicago. Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th Ward) proposed the plastic ban ordinance earlier today. They’re also working with advocates for people with disabilities to ensure going green doesn’t hurt some of the city’s most vulnerable populations.

The ban would apply to styrofoam foodware used in dine-in restaurants in an attempt to combat plastic pollution. Styrofoam is both unrecyclable and non-biodegradable, making it a material with a high carbon footprint. Eliminating it from dine-in restaurants would have a huge impact on cutting down Chicago’s plastic pollution. Customers would be encourage to bring in their own reusable cups or use restaurant-provided, reusable or compostable foodware.

The new ban comes after previous legislation banning plastic straws and the 2017 bag tax. The plastic straw ban was met with resistance from Chicago’s disabled community, as many people with disabilities rely on plastic straws to drink. This new ordinance was drafted with input from Access Living, an advocacy organization run for and by people with disabilities. The organization tested various foodware alternatives and provided suggestions for the new ban. Aldermen also consulted The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, the Illinois Environmental Council,Illinois PIRG, The Recycling Coalition and The Alliance for the Great Lakes.

styrofoam take out
Image by Douglas Perkins from Pixabay 

The plastics ban won’t get rid of single-use foodware entirely, though. Exceptions will be made for straws, napkins, and other foodware so long as they are primarily made from compostable materials. This way Chicago can continue to move toward sustainable practices without putting burden on people with disabilities who require straws.

While the ban could be ideal for lowering Chicago’s plastic pollution and carbon footprint, it may have unintended consequences for small businesses. Compostable foodware tends to be more expensive than traditional plastic, which means some businesses will have to raise food prices to cover the cost. However, the city plans to mitigate this by providing a list of businesses that sell sustainably smart foodware. Small businesses will also be granted one-year waivers if no cost-effective alternatives are available.

It remains to be seen whether or not this ordinance will pass and/or how it will actually be implemented. If passed, the ban would go into effect in 2021.

Feature photo: Shutterstock.

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