Bill to ban foam food containers advances
Restaurants and other businesses in California would have to stop using polystyrene foam food containers in the next five years under legislation approved Thursday by the state Senate to address environmental worries.
Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) said the foam containers are often used for just minutes by fast-food customers but, because they do not decompose quickly, end up lingering for years in landfills, storm drains and ocean waters.
"SB 568 would help protect the environment, create green jobs and save taxpayers millions of dollars in clean-up costs," Lowenthal said.
The measure, which next goes to the Assembly, was opposed by most Republican senators who said it would hurt businesses and drive up prices for consumers if more expensive alternative containers are required.
"This one is going to cost money," said Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto). "This bill will limit consumer choice."
The measure was also opposed by the California Restaurant Assn., California Chamber of Commerce and American Chemistry Council. Groups opposing the measure say the foam is the best material for food packaging because it is inexpensive, lightweight and effective in keeping food warm or cold.
Supporters said the foam containers represent about 15% of litter. Nearly 50 cities and other jurisdictions in California have already banned them.
Lowenthal received a bare-majority vote for his bill after agreeing to postpone the date for compliance with the ban to 2016 for restaurants and 2017 for school districts.
-- Patrick McGreevy
Photo: A foam cup on the beach in Santa Monica. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times