Goodbye, expanded polystyrene foam—or as the planet knows you: styrofoam.
Last night, with slight opposition from Councilmembers Stacey Mungo, Suzie Price, and Daryl Supernaw pushing for even stricter conditions, the Council unanimously supported our City Attorney moving forward with drafting an ordinance that would ban the sale and distribution of expanded polystyrene and other polystyrene disposable food service containers within the city (with exemptions for the Long Beach Unified School District).
The move comes with nearly 100 cities and counties in California that have enacted some kind of limit on polystyrene use—and one that the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board said should be implemented statewide.
“I think this is necessary and long overdue,” said local environmental advocate Elliot Gonzales. “We know the long term impact of polystyrene and have a moral responsibility as a city to create ocean-friendly policies with future generations in mind.”
Polystyrene is a type of plastic manufactured from non-renewable fossil fuels—contributing to climate change globally—and synthetic chemicals. It usually comes in two forms: “expanded polystyrene foam” (EPS) that is used to make cups, plates, take-out food containers, and packing materials; and “solid polystyrene,” which gets turned into everything from plastic forks to smoke detector housings to Blu-Ray casings.
Given its composition, polystyrene doesn’t biodegrade; when it comes to EPS, it breaks into minuscule pieces that make cleaning it up extremely difficult. Just as disturbing is that these pieces are consumed by animals that mistake EPS for food, sometimes resulting in the death of fish, turtles, and other marine life. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.
Since it is composed of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals, those chemicals can leach if they come in contact with hot, greasy, or acidic food. Sure, they keep your coffee hot but they also add some good ol’ toxins to your Wake Me Up.
Not lastly, it isn’t recyclable.
As the City Attorney works on the ordinance, the City Manager’s office will look into a timeline for implementation as well as create a list of vendors who sell non-polystyrene products. Partnering with the Economic Development Commission, the office will then examine financial incentives for local businesses who implement the ban of these products before the implementation date of the ordinance.
Editor’s note: this article originally stated that Councilmember Al Austin raised opposition; however, it was Mr. Austin’s support that altered opposition.