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Hermosa Beach moves closer to banning polystyrene food containers

October 26, 2011 |  5:30 pm

Polystyrene cup1After nearly a half a year of research and negotiation, the Hermosa Beach City Council has taken a step toward a citywide ban on polystyrene food containers. 

With more than a dozen speakers in attendance, the council voted, 3-2, on Tuesday night to direct city staff to create a ordinance that would ban takeout packaging made of the plastic material.

More than 50 cities in California have similar ordinances in place, due to environmental and health concerns.

"I think it was an amazing outpouring of support from the community that came out last night," said Brian Schoening, who served on the city’s Green Task Force, which recommended the ordinance, which will give restaurants a six-month grace period. "I was actually surprised by the council -– all five members came to agreement that there’s a need to address the issue."

The vote came more than a year after Schoening’s task force was assembled by the council. In May, the task force had recommended an ordinance banning the containers, but the council voted, 4-1, in favor of additional research for an educational program.

When the task force returned with its findings last month, discussion on the issue was again deferred until Tuesday. So when the day for debate finally arrived, more than a dozen community members, lobby representatives, and even children spoke at the hearing.

Third-grader Max O'Reilly worked the floor, pushing for the ban. He explained that he and his friends take sandwiches to the beach, but the sandwiches and their Styrofoam containers often get destroyed by birds. 

"While we’re in the water, the birds come over, they attack the Styrofoam; they rip it apart and bring it into the ocean," O'Reilly said. "And they get the sandwich!"

Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Duclos dismissed promises from lobbyists for the plastics industry, who said they’d collaborate on a meaningful education plan.

"It’s abundantly clear that this is an industry that is not going to change unless it is mandated to do so," Duclos said.

Duclos, Peter Tucker, and Mayor Howard Fishman voted to draft the ordinance, while Michael DiVirgilio and Kit Bobko opposed.

DiVirgilio, who had made the motion for the education plan in May, said he was not opposed to banning polystyrene but thought it was an overly aggressive first step.  

"I think I have put myself in front of the Mack Truck called banning polystyrene," DiVirgilio said. "I know which way this is going."

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-- Matt Stevens

Photo: A discarded cup on the sand. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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