PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Once hailed as a "wonder product," styrofoam packaging may soon be banned in Maine's largest city.
Portland's "Green Packaging Working Group" is working on an ordinance that would eliminate the sale of everything from styrofoam coffee cups to coolers at the beach.
"This is evolution, not revolution," says Portland City Councilor Ed Suslovic, who chairs the committee that's charged with crafting the ordinance.
"The problem with styrofoam is it's made from fossils fuels. It's not biodegradable and it lasts on the street for like 600 years," says Suslovic.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, nearly 20 million pounds worth of styrofoam products end up in the waste stream.of which 1.7 million pounds end up in the water threatening aquatic life.
That's of particular concern to a coastal city like Portland.
But for restaurateurs, styrofoam is a go-to product for a reason.
3 Buoys Seafood Shanty and Grille at the base of Munjoy Hill specializes in hearty foods like chowder, fried seafood, burgers and fries.
And when customers want their food to-go, it's packaged in styrofoam.
"It's cheap and it holds up to stress. It"ll hold up to fried fish and won't fall apart on the way home," says manager Alex Calandrella.
While styrofoam packaging was prominently on parade at noon in Portland, the lunch crowd said they'd be fine making the switch to paper or cardboard.
"I could care less about the styrofoam container one way or the other," said Lindsay Babayan. "I'm still going to get my coffee."
Suslovic says he expects the ordinance to pass because it's a logical extension of the city's other environmental initiatives.
"I think it's similar to when Portland banned smoking in restaurants. We did it first and everyone else in the state followed suit," he said.
The public will have several opportunities to weigh on the proposed ban including two public hearings.
Suslovic says he expects a vote on the ordinance by June.