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Styrofoam going away in Florida stores?

Florida grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores will not be able to sell or distribute food in containers made of polystyrene if the rule is finalized.

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. — Styrofoam is on its way out of Florida stores.

That’s according to the state’s agricultural commissioner Nikki Fried.

Friday, she announced the rule to ditch polystyrene in the sunshine state is in the works. 

Polystyrene is the plastic chemical used to make Styrofoam.

"Styrofoam is a brand name," said Maia McGuire, a plastics expert and environmental advocate with Sea Grant in Flagler County.

The rule – that is still in the draft form – says Florida grocery stores, markets, and convenience stores would not be able to sell or distribute food in containers made of polystyrene, such as styrofoam.

The new rule, to be phased in over five years, would not apply to what may be the larger user of polystyrene, and that's restaurants.

That’s because they do not fall under the agriculture commissioner’s purview, McGuire said.

Polystyrene is basically plastic.  It does not biodegrade.

"Polystyrene, as a chemical, is known to have some potentially carcinogenic compounds in it," McGuire said.

Those compounds leach out into the food the foam trays hold.  If littered, the chemicals from foam trays, plates, and cups seep into the environment. So this law aims to curtail the environmental and health effects from it. Fried is also finding alternatives to polystyrene products. 

McGuire said, "I think it’s a pretty good start."  However, she wonders, "What is the language going to be and where are the loopholes?"

Styrofoam may be stamped with a recyclable symbol with the number "6" in the middle. However, fewer recycling plants are actually recycling it anymore, and if they do, the foam has to be clean. And that is rare.

A handful of other states have wiped out polystyrene, and Florida is studying those states' laws.