Polystyrene Problem Persists
Despite bans, the Styrofoam product still serves as the go-to to-go container.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Stacks of it tower over the tartar sauce at Phat Burger on Del Monte Boulevard. It’s the plate on which your tacos al pastor are served at Mi Tierra on Broadway Avenue. And it’s the container for your chicharrones from the brand-new Mi Pueblo on Fremont Boulevard.
It’s polystyrene (the fancy name for a vinyl polymer in Styrofoam products), it’s banned by six cities in Monterey County, and, nearly nine months after Seaside’s ordinance banning polystyrene took effect, it’s still dispensed daily by local businesses.
“There are still violators,” says Ximena Waissbluth, who heads the local chapter of Surfrider Foundation’s Marine Debris Outreach Project.
“It’s not just take-out [containers] that are the issue,” says Mark McClellan, Seaside’s building and code enforcement officer. “It’s polystyrene use, period.”
Monterey County’s anti-polystyrene ordinance, adopted in early 2009 and covering unincorporated areas, is a model for other cities including Seaside. Seaside’s ordinance extends to vendors at special events within city limits.
After an initial warning giving businesses 30 days to ditch polystyrene, the city fines non-compliant establishments $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 from the 90-day mark onward.
Mi Pueblo, which opened two weeks ago, is a prominent purveyor of polystyrene. McClellan says he spoke to the store’s general manager, who claimed to be unaware of the ordinance and promised to comply with it. He says the city staff lacks resources to inspect every business, and that’s where the public comes in.
“People can get on our website and contact us, or call the code enforcement hotline,” says McClellan. “The biggest help we get is from the public.”