The Surf Check

A surfers preservationist perspective on our oceans and beaches

Municipalities ban polystyrene products

with one comment

Polystyrene products await trash pick-up. Inexpensive polystyrene products like these end up in oceans around the world.

Courtesy Wiki Commons

Earlier this year Palo Alto, Calif. moved to ban all Polystyrene products from the city for environmental and economic reasons. The ban, effective April, 2010, reflects a growing trend in coastal communities all over the United States and in particular, California. reported on the ban and says that Palo Alto will become the 23rd California city to ban the common take-out packaging.

Polystyrene is one of the most common forms of food packaging. The packing material Styrofoam, a trademark of the Dow Chemical company, is a Polystyrene, but the term polystyrene encompasses more then just Styrofoam. The ban in Palo Alto will extend to all polystyrene products including utensils, cups, and packaging peanuts.

Palo Alto’s reasoning behind ban is similar to other municipalities. Polystyrene material, due to its chemical composition, never biodegrades. While it is potentially recyclable it is given a number “6” recyclable classification. This requires a different process than other recyclables, and the infer-structure to recycle polystyrene can be very expensive.

A Palo Alto city councilmen in favor of the band explained it as such, as reported by “Ongoing logistical challenges and quality control challenges related to the minimal recycling material for expanded polystyrene make even the recycling program for peanuts and blocks infeasible.”

Polystyrene includes packing peanuts like these and other products commonly referred to as Styrofoam.

Courtesy of coddogblog at Flicker

If, like in Palo Alto, recycling methods are not available, polystyrene ends up in landfills. Or in the case of coastal cities, potentially in the ocean. While the polystyrene ban is reported to have had some economic impacts; polystyrene floats and never biodegrades. For this reasons it has caused some real problems for coastal waters and their communities.

The city of Watsonville, located in Santa Cruz County recently moved forward with a ban on polystyrene. The Surfrider Foundation profiled and supported the ban. It celebrated it as the first polystyrene free county. In a press release Surfrider reported that, “With the recent addition of Watsonville and Scotts Valley to the list, joining the City of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County and City of Capitola, Santa Cruz County is now the first and only multiple-jurisdiction county in California to have a styro-ban in all jurisdictions within the county limits.”

In 1990, Berkley, became one of the first California cities to implement a ban on “restaurants and retail food vendors from serving prepared food” in polystyrene based products. In 2005 and 2006 other beach cities such as Santa Monica, San Francisco, and Huntington Beach sought their own bans. Heal the Bay, a environmental group concerned with our nations coastal reasons, has a comprehensive document compiling the bans as of 2007 and is available for download here.

One Response

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  1. Can I tell you that a man from WRAP our own little government formed group says that the reason PolyS is not recycled is because there’s no profit and there’s not much used!!!!!
    This stuff is the same stuff that DVD & CD cases are made of, it’s just treated differently and it’s in every wrapped pizza,lectrical goodslike telees, fridges,kettles a vast number of childrens toys,PCs & laptops worldwide.
    Look at as that’s what we’ve done to date


    October 24, 2009 at 9:42 pm

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