It is time for Summit businesses to say no to Styrofoam use and consider healthy alternatives. Although they often cost less than other food containers, the actual cost of Styrofoam food containers in terms of health and the environment is quite high. Inevitably, the desire to help the bottom line is actually quite harmful. We think we have an answer.

First, the facts. Use of polystyrene or Styrofoam containers is harmful for the environment. Styrofoam takes at least 500 years to biodegrade in landfills. Our landfills are at capacity. We need more open space, not more landfills.

But perhaps more importantly, Styrofoam is bad for our health. Not many people know that it begins to deteriorate rapidly when it comes into contact with food or drink - especially when the substance is hot - and harmful chemicals such as benzene, styrene and ethylene leach into what is being consumed. When ingested, these chemicals can cause mild illnesses such as fever, loss of concentration, weariness or fatigue. Long-term use can cause nervous system damage, liver damage, cancer and/or death.

When presented with this important environmental and health information, the City of Summit made the decision to remove Styrofoam from all city buildings, and the Summit Public School System banned Styrofoam from public school cafeterias. Switching to earth- and human-friendly alternatives is making a positive impact on our residents, visitors and employees, as well as the health of our school children.

It is my sincere hope that Summit business owners will follow the lead of the City and its public schools to provide their customers with disposable container alternatives that are better for them and the earth.

There's a lot that businesses can do, such as offering customers a small discount if they bring their own reusable coffee and beverage containers, and Tupperware or other takeaway containers. You may also want to check this web site, which offers alternatives that are price friendly and good for the world and its inhabitants: www.webstaurantstore.com/green/.

Thank you for reading this and considering alternatives. Summit thanks you, too. Please contact projectgreenbiz@gmail.com for more information.