Plastic Pollution, Expanded Polystyrene Foam
July 30 2012

Fed Up With Foam Litter? Pass SB 568!

by Bill Hickman

California Senate Bill 568 is groundbreaking legislation that would phase out expanded polystyrene (EPS) food and drink containers at restaurants statewide by 2016. Sign our action alert and call your State Assemblymember to support this bill to clean up our beaches and support sustainable foodware products by phasing out the use of foam containers by restaurants and other food vendors.

Here's a recent op/ed published by the San Diego Union-Tribune that explains the issues with EPS foam and the need for SB 568....

Have you ever wondered where those tall stacks of foam plates and cups from restaurants, hotels and food vendors end up? Most of it will find its way into landfills to be embalmed there forever, a tiny fraction might be recycled, and the rest will be littered, needlessly impacting our environment.

California is in a unique position to lead the charge in litter reduction with the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 568 – a bill that would phase out expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam foodware from restaurants statewide by 2016.

EPS foam is typically made from nonrenewable fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals that may leach out over time, especially if in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. EPS foam does not biodegrade in our lifetime, but may photodegrade or break up into small pieces if littered, which make it harder to clean up. This also is of concern because animals can mistake EPS foam for food or nesting materials.

While inexpensive to purchase, EPS can be expensive to clean up. Polystyrene products are often thrown away after a single use because they are cheap and there is negligible value in them. Many municipalities that have to comply with stormwater regulations limiting trash in waterways have already spent taxpayer dollars trying to control, capture, and remove trash, including EPS.

A Los Angeles study found that over 1.6 billion pieces of plastic foam headed to the ocean over a three-day period during surveys in 2004.

EPS recycling is often not economical, so most of it ends up in landfills or as litter. Also, few communities have access to polystyrene recycling. Because there are readily available alternatives, this form of plastic pollution should be addressed at the source instead of relying on more trash cans and “end of the pipe” solutions of capturing and removing litter.

Restaurants and food vendors can easily comply and save money by reducing disposable items and providing incentives for reusable items. If customers are dining in a restaurant or coffee shop, offer them plates, glasses and mugs that are washed rather than thrown away. If customers order out, offer them incentives for bringing their reusable mugs, bags and containers. If reusable items are not practical, disposable items that are compostable or easier to recycle would still be allowed. A variety of options exist at prices that are competitive with EPS.

While business interests try to muddy the waters with campaign contributions, SB 568 stands as a bill that will lead to a better California. Encourage your state legislator to pass SB 568 to advance the bill to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval this legislative session.

For more info please visit our SB 568 Campaign Page.