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EDITORIAL:Styrofoam still a risk in oceans

Laguna Beach wants to join a growing number of cities and counties in the nation taking aim at polystyrene, those plastic foam containers that are so ubiquitous at fast-food outlets.

The City Council recently voted to craft an ordinance that would prohibit restaurants, markets or other retail outlets from serving food in single-use, non-recyclable plastic or polystyrene containers.

The food outlets would also be required to provide recycling receptacles for those containers that can be recycled.

In doing so, the city will become part of a growing movement to stop the proliferation of plastic trash in the oceans — an appalling global menace to sea life and the marine environment.

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Despites various attempts at recycling by the polystyrene industry over the years, the substance — made from petroleum — is still considered “non-recyclable” and ends up in landfills or worse, in the ocean.

Because polystyrene is feather-light — made up of 99% air — it is easily distributed into the environment and difficult to corral. Because it is used for food service and is contaminated after just one use, economically feasible re-use and recycling is not possible.

As documented in recent news reports, plastics have been collecting in enormous gyres in dead spots in the oceans, where they stay for decades. They take many, many years to bio-degrade and are deadly to many forms of sea life.

Hopefully efforts at ridding the waterways of polystyrenes will end up inducing the industry to find ways to make its product more environmentally friendly.

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The good news for local businesses — which will bear the burden of a future ordinance — is that alternatives are out there and becoming comparatively cheaper as the price of oil rises.

Businesses will be invited to participate in helping to craft an ordinance that they can live with.

These are small but positive steps that are being mirrored locally, in the state, and around the country.

Coastal cities like Santa Monica and Malibu are, like Laguna Beach, extremely sensitive to the proliferation of plastic throwaways that collect on beaches and mar waterways.

Both of those cities, and a dozen or so others, have enacted similar measures, so Laguna Beach won’t be reinventing the wheel in coming up with a workable, effective ordinance that will hopefully have far-reaching effects in helping to make the oceans cleaner for future generations.


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