Pittsfield Council weighs Styrofoam ban

Posted at: 04/02/2013 12:16 AM
Updated at: 04/02/2013 12:36 AM
By: Dan Levy

PITTSFIELD - Styrofoam is a product that's been around for more than half a century. On Monday night, the Pittsfield City Council began a process that might wind up taking it out of everyone's hands.

America may run on Dunkin, but there are people in the Berkshires who want Dunkin -- and other businesses -- to run out of Styrofoam.

Rinaldo Del Gallo wants the product banned throughout Pittsfield, which is what he told the city council's Ordinance and Rules Committee Monday night.

"The strongest argument is that it breaks down into something that's horrible," Del Gallo, a lawyer, opines, further arguing that because polystyrene doesn't biodegrade, and can last for hundreds of years in landfills, it harms the environment, and in turn, has an adverse affect on human health.

"Our position is that a ban doesn't do anything," asserts Martin Fisher, spokesman for Dart Container Corporation. "What they're trying to do here (is ban) a substance that has been in use for many years and used for many purposes and it's safe."

"The entire scientific community is against it. I'm surprised a speaker came in here and said otherwise," del Gallo countered. "It's like arguing that global warming isn't caused by human activity."

Melissa Mazzeo chairs Pittsfield's Ordinance and Rules Committee and says she wants to take her time and make an educated decision considering how many people would be affected.

"Grocery stores are huge. There's a lot of things that are wrapped in polystyrene and that bothers me," Mazzeo states, "If you're going to do this ban, do we do it all or nothing?"

Outside the Pittsfield Dunkin Donuts Shop on First Street, opinions were still brewing.

"If I had a choice I'd probably go with paper cups because it's better on the environment," said Jess Gerry, of Dalton, "In Pittsfield, there's bigger problems."

"There's a lot of other things that are harming the environment besides Styrofoam cups," said Alyssa Sugrue, of Holyoke."

"Let's get the facts. Let's know what we're doing. Let's educate people," is what Nicole Fields of Agawam suggested needs to be done.

In addition to the question of whether or not polystyrene is harmful, those in favor of the ban also argue that it creates litter, and that replacing it would cost more money for businesses, which would then pass along the added cost to consumers.

The Ordinance and Rules Committee tabled the measure, all of them saying they'd like to hear from scientific experts before moving the proposal forward.