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California Senate votes to ban foam takeout containers

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Sandwiches, milkshakes and other food items frequently packaged in foam takeout containers will have to be packaged in other materials under a bill that cleared the state Senate on Thursday. SB 568 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would prohibit food vendors and restaurants from dispensing prepared foods to customers in polystyrene foam beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Expanded polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is a lightweight plastic that, when littered, is often carried from streets through storm drains into the ocean. It accounts for 15% of storm drain litter, according to the California Department of Transportation. It is the second-most-common type of beach debris, according to a study by the Southern California Coastal Water Quality Research Project.

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Fifty California jurisdictions have already banned foam takeout food packaging, including Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu and Ventura County.

‘There are all these jurisdictions in California that have to control trash and reduce their discharges of trash to waterways, and they’re having a hard time complying because foam litter is so hard to control. That’s the reason for this bill,’ said Miriam Gordon, state director of Clean Water Action, a national advocacy group that sponsored SB 568.

‘I introduced this bill not just to solve an environmental problem that plagues our state but also because it’s a job booster for California,’ Lowenthal said. He added that many California companies are making alternatives to polystyrene takeout packaging, including compostable materials, aluminum foil and paper.

SB 568 passed on a bipartisan 21-15 vote. The bill is headed to the Assembly this month, with a floor vote by the end of August.

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-- Susan Carpenter

A girl runs by a discarded polystyrene foam cup on a beach. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times


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