Styrofoam Stigma Grows
Ban on polystyrene foam packaging heads inland to Salinas.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Styrofoam blows – and litters as it goes. That’s the main motivator for bans on polystyrene foam packaging in the cities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, Seaside, Monterey and Del Rey Oaks, and the unincorporated county.
Now a proposed ban is sweeping east to Salinas, where familiar arguments are likely to surface before the City Council on Aug. 16.
On the pro-ban side: environmentalists who take issue with the material’s tendency to clog storm drains and leach toxins into food.
“It’s not only marine life we’re concerned about. It’s a human health issue,” says Laura Kasa of Santa Cruz-based Save Our Shores. “Why shouldn’t Salinas be banning a toxic material when all these surrounding cities have done it?”
Likely players against the ban: restaurant owners concerned with the higher cost of alternative materials, the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce and the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division. Calls to the chamber and the city’s Community and Economic Development Department were not returned.
Mayor Dennis Donohue says he’s spoken with business interests about the polystyrene issue, but he doesn’t recall whether he’s met with the ACC, and he has not conferred with environmental groups. “My primary focus is the local business community,” he says. “[But] barring the unseen, I remain favorably disposed toward the ban.”
Sustainable Salinas activist Levi Jimenez says any cost-benefit analysis should include not only the low price of polystyrene packaging, but also the taxpayer burden of litter cleanup: “The cost is far greater in the long run if we continue using this stuff.”
Read more on local polystyrene bans, including a list of restaurants on board, at www.mcweely.com/styro.