Environment: A Burger to Go - Hold the Plastic

Forsaken by McDonald's, foam packaging may be on the way out

Polystyrene foam is one of the great success stories of modern industry. Light, shock-resistant, insulating and cheap to make, it shows up everywhere: in disposable coffee cups, in boxes that hold fast-food hamburgers, as packing "peanuts" for safe shipping. But the stuff has a serious downside as well. Polystyrene is bulky, taking up space in landfills; as a plastic, it takes decades to decompose; its manufacture causes the release of hazardous chemicals; and the market for recycling it is hopelessly limited. Environmentalists have argued for years that the foam should simply be banned.

They now have an unlikely ally: McDonald's. The...

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