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California Now Wants to Ban Your Styrofoam Containers


"people that litter don't care what type of product they're littering."

You can put your left overs in it. Keep your take out hot in it. Hold your drink in it. Pack your shipments in it. Put your lunch on it. You can even insulate your roof with it. But if California has it's way, you will soon have nothing to do with it.

The "it," if you haven't guessed: Styrofoam. But only your Styrofoam containers are up for the ban at this point.

The bill, by Democratic state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, would prohibit restaurants, grocery stores and other vendors from dispensing food in expanded polystyrene containers, commonly known as Styrofoam, beginning in 2016. If signed into law, the measure would make California the first to institute a statewide ban on such containers. More than 50 California cities and counties already have similar bans.

The bill would exempt school districts and city and county jurisdictions if they implemented programs that recycled more than 60 percent of their foam waste.

Lowenthal said litter from the foam containers is one of the most abundant forms of debris found in city streets, sewers and beaches.

"It's not biodegradable, it's not compostable, and if it's in the water for a long time, it breaks up into small beads and lasts for thousands of years. It costs millions to clean up beaches," he said

Opponents of the bill, however, say the move could cost business owners a lot of money, and it also doesn't really address littering.

The Associated Press reports business owner Gary Honeycutt as saying the proposed ban would cost him thousands of dollars. And the biodegradable stuff? Doesn't cut the mustard -- or in his case cheese.

"We put cheese on those omelets. And when we put the cheese on, it's really hot and bubbly and it goes right through the biodegradable stuff," he said.

Others say the bill fails to address the root cause of litter — the litterers themselves. Litterbugs will toss out the containers whether they're made of polystyrene or biodegradable cardboard, said Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling for Dart Container.

"At the end of the day, people that litter don't care what type of product they're littering," he said.

The California Chamber of Commerce has labeled the measure as one of its "job-killer bills," saying it threatens manufacturing jobs while increasing costs for restaurants that will have to spend more on alternative containers.

And while Styrene, a chemical used to make the foam containers, was listed as "reasonably anticipated" to be a human carcinogen in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' June report on carcinogens,John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, a division of the federal agency, disagrees: "The risks, in my estimation, from polystyrene are not very great. It's not worth being concerned about."

Tim Shestek, senior director of state affairs at the American Chemistry Council, agreed and said concern about negative health effects "is not supported by scientific information." The group, based in Washington, D.C., is lobbying against the bill.

As Gawker points out, California has been on the ban-happy bandwagon these days, attempting to ban use of plastic bags, circumcision and successfully banning McDonald's Happy Meal toys.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(H/T Gawker)

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