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Solana Beach Moves Toward Banning Plastic Foam Food Containers

Foam soup containers are stacked in a New York restaurant, Feb. 14, 2013.
Associated Press
Foam soup containers are stacked in a New York restaurant, Feb. 14, 2013.
Solana Beach Moves Toward Banning Plastic Foam Food Containers
Solana Beach Moves Toward Banning Plastic Foam Food Containers
Solana Beach Moves Toward Banning Plastic Foam Food Containers GUEST:Peter Zahn, city councilman, Solana Beach

I Maureen Cavanaugh. The next time you get takeout and Solana Beach it might come in a paper box or a recycled plant fiber box but it may not, and that old squeaky stand by the Styrofoam container. The Solana Beach city Council has voted to ban polystyrene plastic food containers. The band continues the progressive stance the city is taken to protect the environment. It was the first city in the county to ban plastic grocery bags. Not everyone is happy to. Several restaurants say it made make a significant dent in their bottom line. Joining me is Peter Zahn a Solana Beach councilmember who proposed the band. Welcome to the program. Great to be here. How to Styrofoam containers threatened the Solana Beach environment? As you know were a coastal city. That we have found is a lot of these containers are the materials is a breakdown in her own to our beaches and into our waters and they have a lot of detrimental effects along the way. They can get into the food supply, they can cause quite a bit of litter and actually cost involved with cleaning that up. Styrofoam was a big problem back in the 90s when it was made of chlorofluorocarbons. It was the plea -- depleting the ozone layer. Was in that problem solved? Didn't they make them so there biodegradable? Actually they are not. It's a plastic that does not break down. In fact they do not really photo D Grady there. When they go in the land fields, they can stay in the same state for hundreds of years perhaps thousands. So there really has been no improvement in their makeup as far as environmental sustainability goes. Is there a particular problem when you're talking about food containers that are made of polystyrene doesn't that at an additional problem if somebody does try to recycle it? That's right. What a lot of people are saying is why not just recycle these containers. They're all over the place and were used to recycling other materials but the fact is there are no recycling enterprises that can handle this because once food contaminates the Styrofoam container, it's not recyclable at all. Very few of us are willing to watch these things that is thoroughly as they need to be washed out to get to where they can be properly recycle. So the only thing that can be done with food containers that are not immaculate he washed his to be thrown away. That's right. And as we have seen, they end up not only on our beaches and coastal ocean but further out into the ocean with a do affect marine life and enter into the food chain. Okay so we understand about the food containers and we understand the rationale for that but why are polystyrene or peanuts also banned under this new ordinance? This is a novel part of our ordinance. As you might know there are many jurisdictions throughout the state of California that have had polystyrene bands in effect. In this case, what we looked at was the effect of the Styrofoam peanuts another packing materials like cushioning and said there are substitute materials available. You may have seen is if you get a package from Amazon where they're not using them anymore. So many Packers have moved away from them. They have found much more environmentally sustainable materials. So we said it's more about time and Alisa businesses in our biz -- city will no longer use them. There were several restaurant owners who said the difference between the Styrofoam they been using and the alternatives might be prohibitive. How do you answer that? Our city staff did some exhaustive research and found that the differences are pretty insignificant in terms of the cost of the container and especially when you look at the price of the food that they are normally served with her taken out from. The other part of it is there are now 90 cities in our state that of done this. We have not been able to find any evidence that there have been any negative impact on these restaurants or other food providers in terms of cost. So one of the restaurant owners I read said that they can get the Styrofoam things for about 850 a package and now they will have to spend up to $14 for a package about turn it is. What are the alternatives for these containers? There are several alternatives. If you go to, it's funny are Chamber of Commerce that's commerce did a survey of the 62 establishments to provide food and really, all of them except 18 had already switched out of it. So there are many different alternatives and you see some things like cardboard or reinforce cardboard in different materials that have been proven and in use a long time. There viable and available. So no one will have to invent anything. There out there and available and being used in other cities. That's right. I do see a business opportunity because as more city switch over and more establishments and responsible suppliers of merchants, this is creating a bigger demand. There are a lot of interesting plant-based materials that can be used in just like we've innovated in San Diego and the rest of California so much, I think there's opportunity for innovation here too. Solana Beach joins other communities especially coastal communities in California and banning polystyrene. Is the first in the county to implement this type of band. How effective is it if the communities around you do not enacted them a ordinance? If somebody can and just go a few miles away and get a Styrofoam food container. That's a great question more rain. In fact we really are eager to have other jurisdictions join us. Just as we had with a single use disposable plastic bag ban we also -- we were a small island until Encinitas recently joined in. We see this as an area that many cities can pick up more easily and I think it's going to be less controversy all. We will be able to multiplier effect. Let's get started in this county because the upside is so great with us. Let me talk about the plastic back band. When Solana beach and Encinitas voted to enact the bands against those bags, it seemed to be a growing momentum across the state of California. The legislature given go-ahead to that band but now voters are going to see it on next years election. Is going to be an initiative to overturn the states band which has not been enacted because of the pending initiative. Do you feel little isolative -- isolated that you've lost that? I look at it as a temporary delay. There was assistance to manufacturers of the plastic bags to help them transition. This is going to pass, it's just now we have a speed bump unfortunately. All of the cities the past bands prior to the state legislatures action, while still have their bands in effect. This is a setback in terms of time, but I'm optimistic that this is going to go forward. Going back to the polystyrene ban that the city Council is in acting, when does that band start? How will it be effective it Solana Beach? This is still a proposed ordinance and we have to have a second reading which will happen in our next city Council meeting. If we do adopted, at that meeting then the band will go into effect six months after for restaurants and other food preparers. As far as the packet materials, it will be a 30 day period and then that will go into effect for them as well. And that six months is to let the people use the stock of polystyrene they already have? Yes. The local chamber asked if we would do that and it certainly makes a lot of sense. We will do that. And finally, you're confident that in the second vote next week this will be approved by the city Council I believe it will. We passed the first time around on a 41 vote and we haven't seen any evidence come for since then that will cause me to change my mind. I have been speaking with Solana Beach councilmember Peter Zahn. And so much for coming in. Thank you very much.

Solana Beach is continuing its progressive stance to protect the environment with a move to ban polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam. The action would mostly affect restaurants that use the plastic foam food containers.

"Once food contaminates the styrofoam container, it is not recyclable at all," said city councilman Peter Zahn on Tuesday's Midday Edition. He said the containers end up in landfills, contaminating the beach and polluting marine ecosystems.

Solana Beach became the first city to ban plastic grocery bags. If the City Council approves the polystyrene ban at its meeting on Oct. 28, the city also will be the first in San Diego County to prohibit plastic foam containers.

Solana Beach and Encinitas are the only cities in the county that ban plastic grocery bags, but a measure that would impose a statewide ban on plastic bags is set for a vote in November 2016.

Zahn proposed the ordinance that would require restaurants to move from polystyrene to more environmentally friendly containers like paper because he says polystyrene is not biodegradable. The ban would also include certain packing material such as foam peanuts or cushioning that originate in the city.

Opponents of the ban include Solana Beach restaurant owners who say the cost would be too great to switch to other products. However, Zahn thinks the ban could actually stoke new business creation.

"I see a business opportunity here," said Zahn. "This is creating a bigger and bigger demand. There are a lot of interesting plant materials that could be used. There's opportunity for innovation here."

The council approved the ordinance on a 4-1 vote last week, with Councilwoman Ginger Marshall opposed. Next week's vote is needed to make the ban official. If approved, it would take effect in 30 days but businesses would have up to six months to use up existing stock and supplies, Zahn said.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.