After several months of debating the topic, the City Council of Huntington Beach, CA has voted to oppose a bill that would ban the use of polystyrene foam within city limits. The foam ban was initially proposed as a way to help clean up an on-going problem with litter throughout the area; however, a majority of the city council decided that banning the single material would not bring a solution to the broader issue. Polystyrene foam is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, which makes up many forms of single-use foodservice items often preferred by consumers, such as take-out containers and hot beverage cups.
The rejected ordinance would have prevented restaurants, eateries and food vendors, as well as city facilities and events, from using foodservice items made of polystyrene foam. Several residents and local business owners spoke out against the bill because of its unintended consequences, including Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach). According to Allen, “Huntington Beach is home to many small restaurants that instill a sense of local pride to our city, and many of these businesses rely on the affordability and efficiency of foam food containers. Unfortunately, if the ban [passed], these family-owned restaurants [would] be forced to raise customer prices, lay off workers or even close their doors for good, as a ban could double or triple their costs.”
Many also deemed the ordinance unnecessary because Huntington Beach already has an initiative in place to collect foam waste from its residents and dispose of it responsibly. The city has installed a curbside recycling program that allows residents to place their discarded foam cups and take-out containers on their curb to be collected and recycled. According to Assemblyman Allen, Huntington Beach’s local recycling program has processed more than 60,000 pounds since its launch. Because of this program, not only has 30 tons of discarded waste been removed from landfills in the area, but new opportunities within the manufacturing industry have been created. Once the polystyrene foam is recycled, the material is able to be used in the production of brand new consumer goods, including picture frames, crown molding and surfboards. Voting to oppose the ban on polystyrene foam allows Huntington Beach to continue to develop its recycling program and create a positive economic impact on the community.