On Thursday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried discussed the phaseout of polystyrene food packaging at a press conference in Alachua County.
She was joined by Gainesville City Commissioner David Arreola and director of Keep Alachua County Beautiful Gina Hawkins at the new UF/IFAS extension building in Newberry, which opened Tuesday.
Polystyrene, a plastic material commonly used in food packaging – such as Styrofoam – has come under fire for possible links to health issues. The material may be linked to human health concerns including cancer, birth defects, and liver and kidney damage, according to a department press release.
Fried has made this a top-priority issue for her department in recent months.
In September, Fried announced the statewide phaseout of the material. In November, she gave an update on the rulemaking process on the first day of the Florida Energy and Climate Summit. And on Thursday, she continued the conversation in north central Florida.
“This is a big change,” Fried said. “But, again, it’s one that we’re not doing alone.”
She said six states across the country have begun fully phasing out polystyrene, along with local governments in 10 other states including Texas, Virginia and Maryland.
Arreola echoed Fried sentiments and said he sees the benefit of phasing out the plastic.
“By banning polystyrene and phasing it out of usage in the commercial market, we’re essentially going to be able to remove that from contaminating any of the food chain…,” he said.
Fried said the Florida Department of Agriculture is committed to working with businesses to transition away from polystyrene.