State Styrofoam Ban Fails; Alejo Ducks Vote
September 6, 2012
The foam stays, for now.
After passing in the state Senate and surviving two Assembly committees, SB 568—a bill to ban expanded polystyrene (commonly called styrofoam) take-out packaging statewide—failed to pass the Assembly floor on the last day of the legislative session, Aug. 31, by a 26-45 vote.
The bill, authored by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), would have banned the use of styrofoam to-go containers throughout California. Local governments and school districts with at least a 60 percent recycling rate would have been exempt.
SB 568 had the support of a number of Monterey County businesses, including seven Big Sur restaurants and Passionfish in Pacific Grove. It was also championed by the city of Monterey, a leader in the local movement to ban the material. Most Monterey County jurisdictions have adopted bans on take-out styrofoam packaging.
Expanded polystyrene has been targeted as a problematic source of beach litter and a threat to marine life.
One local legislator who abstained from the vote: Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville). Last spring, Alejo accepted a $1,500 campaign contribution from the Michigan-based DART Container Corporation, which produces styrofoam packaging.
“SB 568 failed by 15 votes," Alejo responded by email. "That does not mean it’s not a worthy discussion to have, it just means the discussion was not thorough enough to get the support of the Legislature. We must take legislative responsibility with all public policy ideas. We must keep the displaced workers in mind and think creatively to promote healthier product alternatives in the future. I think having that discussion will garner the support of the Legislature.”
Alejo's abstention may comes as a shock to environmentalists who may have counted on Alejo's vote. Last spring, the California League of Conservation Voters ranked Alejo near the top of enviro legislators, with 94 percent of votes in alignment with CLCV's positions. The CLVC named him as one of three Assembly "floor champions."
Alejo was recently named chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials.