L.A. County supervisors consider banning polystyrene food containers

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to consider banning plastic foam food containers from restaurants and stores in unincorporated areas because they add to the region’s mounting pollution problem.

At the urging of Supervisors Yvonne B. Burke and Gloria Molina, the board unanimously directed legal and sanitation officials to first study the effects of removing the containers from county facilities and then whether they should be outlawed from food-service and retail outlets countywide.

A few weeks ago, supervisors launched a similar study on whether to ban plastic grocery bags.

Like certain other kinds of non-biodegradable plastic, polystyrene does not break down the way trash does in county landfills. It also clogs storm drains and litters beaches.

Brandishing the foam box from her breakfast burrito, Molina said environmental “reform starts at home.”


The county spends about $15 million a year on devices to block the containers and other garbage from entering waterways, said Donald L. Wolfe, director of the county public works department. “It’s basically with us forever,” Wolfe told the board.

A polystyrene industry representative told the board that littering and lack of recycling programs are more harmful than polystyrene itself.

The supervisors’ action lends county support to a bill by Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach) that would outlaw polystyrene containers at state facilities, including colleges and universities, by Jan 1, 2009. Santa Monica and other cities have passed similar measures.