Young activist victory

Takoma Park city councilmember Terry Seamens and mayor Bruce Williams stand behind Young Activist Club members.

BY BRANDIE PETERSON

The Young Activist Club saw their hard work pay off Nov. 10 when the Takoma Park city council voted unanimously to adopt “The Young Activist Act of 2014”.

The ordinance is an amendment to Takoma Park Code Title 8, banning the commercial use of polystyrene by food-service facilities in the city. It also encourages businesses to use reusable, recyclable, and compostable food-service ware.

Polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, is made from styrene. It is one of the most widely used plastics because of its versatility.

Although the American Chemistry Council has deemed polystyrene safe for use in food-service products, there is suspicion that styrene is a cancer-causing carcinogen.

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The Young Activist Club and the Takoma Park city council pose for a commemorative photo Nov. 10 following the vote. Photo by Brandie Peterson.

The Young Activist Club is a group of local students who attend Piney Branch Elementary School. Members also include Piney Branch graduates who now attend Eastern and Takoma Middle schools.

The after-school club began with support and sponsorship from the Parent Teacher Association.

The group works diligently to spread their message and urge Takoma Park businesses not to use polystyrene products.

They’ve developed several policy recommendations for the City Council aiming to protect the environment and the health of Takoma Park residents.

It’s not recyclable and it’s not biodegradable. And so all of the polystyrene we do use usually ends up being burned in the Dickerson incinerator, and that’s terrible for our air,” said Anna Brookes, and eighth grade member of The Young Activist.

In June 2010 the group successfully advocated for the City Council to ban the use of city funds to purchase polystyrene foodservice ware.

During Monday’s meeting the Young Activist Group received acknowledgement from members of the City Council for their hard work.

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Councilmembers Fred Schultz and Seth Grimes, back row, pose with members of the Young Activist Club.

“I will take the opportunity to thank once again the Young Activist Club, we would not be voting on this tonight if it were not for them, for their perseverance,” said Grimes. “I venture that the County might not be considering a bill if it weren’t for their advocacy.”

Councilmember Grimes prepared the first draft of the current ordinance. Following an initial discussion by the Council on June 16, 2014, Grimes worked with the City Attorney to revise the ordinance.

“I want to say something personal, and that is that I’ve passed a lot of ordinances in my time on the City Council, but I can’t think of any that I’ve had a chance to vote on that I’ve been more excited about,” said councilmember Fred Schultz.

Before the Council voted Mayor Bruce Williams addressed whether the ordinance included a provision for food service establishments outside of Takoma Park who may have food is delivered within city limits.

He referred to an ordinance sentence covering food-service facilities “providing foods for on-site or take-away consumption, via resale.”

“I wasn’t sure if that covered something like delivery or carry-out from other entities that aren’t in the city,” said Williams.

City Manager Brian Kenner assured that those specific details could be elaborated upon in the administrative regulations of the ordinance.

Williams gave his full support to the ordinance, and after the unanimous vote The Young Activist club joined the Council onstage for a victory photo.