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New rules in Yucatán ban the use of polystyrene

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Yucatán joins cities such as Mexico City and New York in banning polystyrene. Photo: File

Yucatán has announced a statewide polystyrene ban effective June 19.

The news comes on the heels of similar measures taken in December, intended to eliminate the use of plastic straws and some types of plastic bags. 

Harry Rodríguez Botello Fierro, Yucatán’s ecology commissioner, highlighted the importance of the polystyrene ban and suggested that the state would be moving forward with similar measures in the future. 

Known locally as “nieve seca” or “unicel,” polystyrene is an easily moldable and inexpensive synthetic material used around the world, mostly for packaging. 

Uses of polystyrene include food containers, disposable cutlery, lids and protective packaging for electronics. The popularity of the material combined with the fact that it is non-biodegradable has long caused alarm amongst environmentalists. 

“We will comply with the decision, but let me be frank, it’s not that easy to make the switch … we use polystyrene because it’s cheap. This decision is likely to force us to raise our prices a little,” said the manager of a popular restaurant in Mérida’s north, who preferred to not be identified.

Large chains, such as Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s, have recently moved away from the use of polystyrene, opting instead for alternatives such as double-walled paper cups. 

Countries such as Zimbabwe and Costa Rica have already banned polystyrene.

“To be effective, the measure requires the support of citizens … to transform our consumption habits and strive towards more sustainable lifestyles,” said Greenpeace’s Ornela Garelli.

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