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Imperial Beach Considers Polystyrene Ban

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.
Imperial Beach Considers Polystyrene Ban
Imperial Beach Considers Polystyrene Ban GUEST: Michael Torti, chair, Surfrider Foundation San Diego County chapter

It's been more than one years since California's plastic bag then went into effect. The local chapter of the foundation was a major proponent of the band and now they're hoping to Dan another item both Styrofoam food containers. Today the city of Imperial Beach will consider banning Polystyrene containers. Joining me is Michael Torti , chair, Surfrider Foundation San Diego County chapter. Welcome to the program.Thank you.Pretty much anywhere you go for lunch you get these white foam food containers and they keep our food warm, but how bad you say they are for the environment?So the impact is great. A surfrider collected over 20,000 pieces of Polystyrene from the beaches. It is light in design many blow into the ocean or into the environment. We are unable to collect them. They are broken down and mistaken for food by Marine life.You can imagine if you were to eat Polystyrene , you would become sick . That is what is happening to the wildlife in our oceans.The city of San Diego has taken a different view on it. They say Polystyrene can be recycled. They decide to recycle it instead of banning it. If it can be recycled why push for a full ban?The reason why Polystyrene is not a viable option for being recycled long-term is that it is costly to clean soiled Polystyrene . We've had reports that recyclers are diverging the waste back into the stream. Because of the lightweight and design, it doesn't hold much value for recyclers so there is no market for it. The project recently did a report and they reported that 0.2% of all Polystyrene are recycled in California.So opponents of Polystyrene bands have said that they are expensive and those costs will be passed on to the consumers. What are the costs associated with this?They report this year where they found a study that price increase between one cent all the way up to eight cents per unit, which can be costly to certain restaurants. Keep in mind that 111 other cities and counties have already implemented ordinances. A lot of them including local once you're in San Diego there is a period before it is implemented to give restaurants time to adopt and there's also an opt out for a restaurant that can prove that there is a burden on their business.This debate is a lot like the debate over plastic bags. The plastic bag ban has been in place for a year. What is been the outcome?The outcome has been quite amazing. It is what we expected though. Before the plastic bag ban, there was bags distributed throughout California and only 5% of those were recycled in California. The rest went into the stream or into the environment. Since then, that had dropped tremendously from 7.4% of total waste down to 2%. It is making a huge impact on the environment and a huge impact on our way stream as well.Some people have pointed to the ban on plastic bags as contributing to the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego. That would be an unintended consequence of that ban. Have you considered there could be unintended consequences for a Polystyrene ban question markI don't know how that could be possible.It failed a couple of years ago in the state legislature. Is the strategy to get more cities to ban the products?With the plastic bag ban local communities -- by the time the legislature passed the ban, we were near about 130 local ordinances and by the time citizens voted for prop 67 to ban plastic bags, we were close to 150. With Polystyrene , were trying to make the same threshold. We are currently at 111 and hopefully today after Imperial Beach will be at 112 and were working with other communities as well so we can make California the first state to ban Polystyrene food take-out containers.I can hear what people are talking about. What other single-use plastic items you think we should do without in the future?What surfrider is looking towards working with the community restaurants to reduce straws next. That is another waste. There is a practice out there of restaurants automatically heading straws whether you requested or not. Will would like to do next to start to work with communities to develop some sort of fair ordinance that could reduce this additional plastic.I been speaking with Michael Torti, chair, Surfrider Foundation San Diego County chapter. Thank you.Thank you so much.

Imperial Beach could become the latest city in California to ban plastic foam food containers.

The Imperial Beach City Council will consider an ordinance Wednesday that would prohibit restaurants from using polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam, and follow in the footsteps of more than 100 other cities across the state, including Solana Beach and Encinitas.

RELATED: Solana Beach Moves Toward Banning Plastic Foam Food Containers


The city of San Diego decided over the summer to recycle the containers instead of adopting a ban.

Polystyrene is not biodegradable. Supporters of the ban say polystyrene litter hurts marine life and recycling the product is not cost effective. But opponents say switching to environmentally-friendly food packaging is expensive.

Michael Torti, chair of the San Diego County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, discusses Wednesday on Midday Edition, the impacts of polystyrene on the environment.