Daily 49er

Long Beach City Council moves to ban polystyrene foam

Restaurant owners remain in opposition toward the foam ban, cautioning potential rise in costs of products.

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

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Long Beach City Council voted to ban polystyrene foam on Tuesday night after four hours of deliberation, drawing a large but divided crowd into the council chambers.

Similar to how the statewide single-use plastic bag ban in California was aimed to limit pollution, the polystyrene ordinance is set to ban single-use plastic food and beverage containers.

Like the plastic bag ban, there is fear that this will negatively affect local businesses’ bottom line in Long Beach.

“Bans are essentially mandated cost increases that often hit the smallest mom-and-pop family owned restaurants in your community,” said Chris Duggan, director of local government affairs at the California Restaurant Association.

According to Duggan, who represents over 500 members in Long Beach, the association opposes any type of ban on polystyrene and any other foam products.

“The mandated costs are real,” Duggan said. “These are not big restaurants, this is the economic backbone of your community.”  

Janet Garcia, an employee of Gabriel’s Burgers located on Pacific Avenue and 20th Street, explained to the council that the ban would negatively affect patrons to these businesses.

“There are a lot of low-income people in our communities that rely on this, if you guys approve this ban we will be forced to raised the price and this we cannot do,” Garcia said.

Not to be confused with Styrofoam — which is a registered trademarked company and is generally used for insulation in buildings — the three kinds of foams that will be banned is expanded polystyrene foam, rigid polystyrene foam and non-recyclable/compostable food and beverage containers.

The reason for the ban

This suggested ordinance was brought forth by District 1 Councilmember Lena

Gonzalez, and a presentation by the Public Works and the Environmental Services Bureau who highlighted three important reasons to consider the ban.

  • Litter prevention
  • Protect public health
  • Waste reduction

District two Councilmember Jeannine Pearce voiced her concern for the health hazards of polystyrene, and addressed the fear of costs on businesses.

“This is an issue about health equity,” Pearce said. “We see that it might be a penny or two pennies added on to my meal, which I’m okay with.”

Implementation

The proposed ban will be implemented in a three-part phased-in approach. The first phase will require city government, contractors and departments to follow the ordinance within the three months of its adoption. The second phase gives large businesses — which is defined as a restaurant with 30 seats or more including franchises — nine months to use non-polystyrene containers. Finally, the third phase, which is to be implemented 18 months after the adoption of the ordinance, will require small businesses to adhere to the ban.

The ordinance will also have incentives, through grants or a green business recognition program, for businesses who stop using polystyrene before the allotted time.

Gonzalez assured restaurant owners that the council’s goal is not to increase food prices or costs of restaurant businesses.

“The cost to local business is minimal,” Gonzalez said. “We’re offering educational workshops and undue hardship waivers, so if any businesses feel they cannot weather this policy then will absolutely help them.”

The next council meeting will be on Tuesday Oct. 24 at 333 W. Ocean Boulevard Council Chamber.

 

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