Take It To Go: State Senate Wants to Ban Styrofoam and Styrofoam-Like Products

Take It To Go: State Senate Wants to Ban Styrofoam and Styrofoam-Like Products

Starry Kitchen, Chego, and a good number of eateries in the city already package their foods in eco-friendly to-go containers, but if the state Senate has its way, all food vendors in the state will be prohibited from using Styrofoam, er, expanded polystyrene foam[1] starting in 2014. Not at all discouraged by the Legislature's recent failure to ban plastic bags, local state Senator Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) introduced a bill in February to ban food vendors, including restaurants, from using the classic clamshell and its related plastic family of convenient take-out and to-go packages. SB 568 passed the Senate by a tight 21 to 15 margin, and is now in the hands of the state Assembly.

The Senator tells us what we already know: this stuff is everywhere. Fifteen percent of the litter in the state is expanded polystyrene foam, thanks to the apparently millions of people who think the world is their oyster and trash can. The foamy plastic is not biodegradable, but, because it is recyclable, cities that establish a recycling program specifically for the material will be exempt from the bill.

Guess who's for and against the bill? You're probably right.

The list of groups in favor of the bill are your usual suspects of environment organizations, as well as a number of local cities (Culver City, Pasadena, and Santa Monica), and restaurants (Inn of the Seventh Ray). Opponents include the the California Restaurant Association, which no doubt worries that the cost of compliance will cut deeply into food vendors' already razor thin margins. Others argue far less convincingly that local authorities should spend their scarce resources going after offending litterbugs rather than cutting the supply at the source.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Senator Lowenthal senses an uphill battle in the Assembly and, to increase the bill's chances of passing, may amend the bill to give vendors until 2016 to stock up on environmentally friendly containers. The Assembly is scheduled to hear the bill at the end of August; if it passes there, it will move to the Governor's desk for his blessing. And that, folks, is how a bill becomes a law.[2]

[1] Dow Chemicals owns the trademark to Styrofoam. Ignoring Xerox and Google's failing attempts to prevent people from using their company names as verbs, Dow refuses to succumb to inevitable genericide and jealously guards against the improper noun-ing of its beloved trademark.

[2] Lest you think the Senate should be preoccupying itself with subjectively more important matters, Senator Lowenthal also spent the last weeks of May babysitting a bill that would require certain trucks to make that intentionally aggravating beep-beep sound as they back up, and inmates caught with cell phones may face an increase in penalties. Feel better now?

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