Tuesday morning, I met up with Daniella Russo, executive director of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, for breakfast at her hotel, the Hyatt Place near the Austin Convention Center. Here’s a photo of Daniella’s breakfast:
From a distance, the dishes look like ceramic and glass, right? Nope. All plastic. Even the mug meant to hold hot coffee… plastic.
We were grumbling about how tacky it is for the Hyatt, of all places, to use plastic dishes. So I decided that the next morning I would check out the breakfast at my hotel, the Hampton Inn and Suites, a Hilton property, right next door.
Guess what. It was worse!
Everything was disposable. Plastic utensils. Paper cups. (Paper coffee cups not shown.) And Styrofoam plates and bowls! All this to be consumed in the very nice hotel dining area. I was appalled.
Add a healthy portion of greenwashing
The plate and bowl were wheat colored, and the utensils were cream-colored instead of white. So I thought, before I got my panties in a bunch, I would see if they were at least compostable. I turned over the plate and saw “Enviroware” stamped on it. So I looked up Enviroware on the web.
Check out the product info sheet:
The dishes are expanded polystyrene foam (like Styrofoam) and the utensils are polystyrene without air blown into it. What makes them “enviro” is this:
“enviroware is manufactured with an active organic catalyst (AOC) developed to accelerate the degradation rate”
So they break down faster. They’re just as toxic. (Styrene is a known carcinogen.) But they’ll break down into tiny pieces into the environment faster. And they’re dyed wheat colored to make them look eco-friendly. Ugh. I think my hotel wins first place in the tackiest breakfastware category. At least the Hyatt’s dishes are reusable, even if they are leaching toxic chemicals into hot coffee.
Polystyrene Foam in Austin
I saw polystyrene foam foodware everywhere I went on this trip. I was able to avoid it by bringing my own container for leftovers and even being a bit creative. At the Cafe Crepe restaurant on the corner of my hotel, I told the waiter I was staying at the hotel and wanted a dessert crepe to take to my room but didn’t want it in a Styrofoam container. I asked if I could take it to go on one of their reusable plates and bring it back when I was done. The waiter said, sure. He even seemed happy that I wanted to do that.
(By the way, did you know that Styrofoam plates and red Solo cups are made from the same kind of plastic? They are both #6 polystyrene, it’s just that the plates have had air blown into them to make them foam up.)
Contact the City Council
This morning, I spoke with Robin Schneider, the executive director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. She told me that they would love to get the polystyrene foam out of Austin. If you live in Austin and would like to ask the city to ban polystyrene foam foodware, please contact all of the members of the City Council. Here is an easy link to use to contact them: http://www.austintexas.gov/mail/all-council-members.
You might mention to them that even McDonald’s has recently ditched Styrofoam.
And to help them learn more about how to help restaurants transition away from foam, refer them to the information pages of several cities in California that have banned polystyrene foodware.