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California

Ventura restaurants banned from using polystyrene food containers

A discarded polystyrene cup lies near the shoreline at Santa Monica Beach in 2006. The Ventura City Council this week voted to ban restaurants from using polystyrene food containers.
A discarded polystyrene cup lies near the shoreline at Santa Monica Beach in 2006. The Ventura City Council this week voted to ban restaurants from using polystyrene food containers.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Ventura restaurants no longer will be allowed to use polystyrene and single-use food containers after the City Council voted to ban their use.

The city is the latest to prohibit the use of polystyrene, often known as Styrofoam, in food-service businesses to help reduce litter and harm to marine animals. The material is found in single-use plates, cups and takeout food containers and is neither biodegradable nor recyclable. After heavy rains, polystyrene items can be seen in storm drains and on beaches, where tiny pieces often end up in the stomachs of seabirds and marine animals.

The Legislature’s recent rejection of a proposed statewide ban on plastic foam takeout containers (SB 705) was disappointing and surprising, considering that it happened hours before California lawmakers were excoriating President Trump for the environmental shortsightedness of pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

After Monday’s 6-0 vote, with Deputy Mayor Sofia Rubalcava absent, city staff will begin drafting an ordinance requiring that all restaurants use biodegradable or recyclable food packaging. Staff also will research how other cities have banned retailers from selling coolers, plates and cups containing polystyrene, noting that retail stores in the city may face a similar prohibition.

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“What’s extra special is current users even agree that it’s the right thing to do,” Mayor Matt LaVere told the council. “There’s community-wide support for this. We all walk on the beach and see it all the time.”

The city will use Santa Barbara’s ordinance as its road map, officials said. All food providers and retailers there are required to use containers and packing materials, including “peanuts” and shipping boxes, that are compostable, recyclable and biodegradable, according to the ordinance.

Food providers in Santa Barbara may be exempt from the rule for up to a year if the vendor applies for an exemption showing a potential financial hardship. Food prepared or packaged outside the city and brought into Santa Barbara as well as raw meat, fish and other raw food trays also are excluded from that ordinance.

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More than 130 cities have implemented a similar ban, including Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. San Diego previously voted to ban the use of polystyrene foam products but had to reverse course in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the restaurant industry.


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