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Polystyrene containers: L.A. County enacts a partial ban

Foam trash gary friedman LAT It's one thing for Malibu and Newport Beach to ban those solid foam food cups and containers that pollute ocean and land.  But what if Los Angeles County did so too, in restaurants and retail areas across its vast unincorporated area, covering 2,600 square miles and more than a million people?

That is what the five members of L.A. County's Board of Supervisors are going to study.

The county took a first step Tuesday when it voted to restrict the use of the containers, which are made of expanded polystyrene, at most county buildings and concessions.   "This is a large county taking a very bold step,”  said Supervisor Gloria Molina of the public facilities ban, which was protested by local manufacturers.

Tuesday’s motion also ordered the Department of Public Works and the county counsel’s office to report to the board in a year on the feasibility of restricting foam food containers among private restaurants and other retail establishments in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Foam food containers do not easily degrade in the environment, can last hundreds of years, and can be eaten by birds and sea mammals, causing their deaths, according to Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, a nonprofit environmental group.

According to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, 56,000 tons of foam food containers and packaging, equivalent to the volume of eight Empire State buildings, enter the California marketplace every year. Food containers are often easily blown into the storm drain system, according to the Department of Public Works.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that ingested ocean plastics kill 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals a year.

There are 88 cities within Los Angeles County, and some of them, including Santa Monica and West Hollywood, have enacted their own bans. The supervisors have jurisdiction only over the unincorporated areas of the county.

Other California cities that ban foam food containers include San Francisco, Alameda, Berkeley, Calabasas, Carmel, Emeryville, Fairfax, Hercules, Laguna Beach, Malibu, Marin, Monterey, Newport Beach, Oakland, Palo Alto,  Richmond, San Bruno and Santa Cruz, according to Surfrider Foundation, a San Clemente-based advocacy group.

Read Rong-Gong Lin II's story for more on how L.A. County's phase-out of foam food containers in public facilities would work.

-- Margot Roosevelt

RECENT AND RELATED:

Garbage-to-Energy: California has second thoughts

Los Angeles is banking on recycling

Plague of plastic chokes the seas

Photo: Polystyrene trash litters the Angeles National Forest Credit: Gary Friedman/ Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (6)

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Would customers pay an extra 15 or 25 cents to eat plate lunch out of an environmentally friendly plastic clamshell?

Some say yes; some say no. But small business owners who use plastic food containers say that in a real-life experiment, the answer is no.

Simply banning polystyrene will not reduce litter. It just changes the type of litter. Polystyrene is not biodegradable but it is recyclable. Guess what? Aluminum cans are also not biodegradable but they are recyclable. The same goes with a lot of other similar products.

In addition, those "biodegradable" products still take quite a while to degrade; it's not done overnight and you will still see that trash on the beach for years to come.

Seems better to educate children to recycle at an early age than to ban products without using much thought.

Ummm doesn't LA County pick up polystyrene for recycling in their blue bins? Yes they do. Why is the County not recycling their polystyrene like other responsible people like myself? I run a small business in LA and polystyrene products are so much cheaper than the alternative, and even better that it's now picked up by recycling. My company employees 11 people and I can assure you, I've run the #s, that if LA or CA bans the use of polystyrene, I will have no choice but to reduce my employee count by at least one. Sucks but that's reality when running a small business like myself. I truly hope everyone comes to their senses and rather than banning, they should educate the importance of recycling. I have flyers/posters all over my business about what can be recycled. I've even forced a policy that my employees go through the waste to separate any recyclable products accidentally disposed improperly by our customers.

I HAD THE PLEASURE NOT LONG AGO MEETING THE LEADING CHEMICAL ENGINEER TO "DISCOVER" THERMO-SET, NOT BIO-DEGRADABLE, POLYSTYRENE. IT WAS CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT OF A CALIFORNIA CHEMICAL COMPANY. THIS RETIRED CHEMIST WASN'T A BIT APOLOGETIC OR EMBARASSED BY THE ADMISSION BUT VERY PROUD TO HAVE TURNED ANOTHER BUCK FOR INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS. LIKE THOSE ASS-HOLES THAT DISCOVERED THE ATOMIC BOMB...

More Nanny State nonsense! Let the marketplace decide! If people don't want to dispose of their litter properly, they should have that right! More creeping Socialism!

This is a great step towards reducing pollution in our County and our ocean. The ban is very important because containers are often blown into the storm drain system and quickly end up in our ocean. To find out more about preventing stormwater pollution go to http://www.lastormwater.info/.

The state should just ban them. If the food industry and slovenly members of the population won't take responsibility for their own trash, the trash should at least be more manageable, more easily biodegradable and not costing the taxpayer or environment as much.


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