Earlier this week, SB 568 (Lowenthal) passed from the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. The bill would prohibit restaurants and other food vendors in California from using expanded polystyrene (eps) foam containers for their prepared food.
Meanwhile the Dart Container Co., which has persistently attempted to brand its Styrofoam products as recyclable through a variety of means such as teaming up with local schools to recycle lunch trays and using recycling logos in their advertisements, has opened a new center in its Corona, California facility to "wash and dry" used eps for recycling.
According to an article in Waste & Recycling News, Dart has indicated the new center will make "it easier for local organizations, businesses and residents to recycle their used foam." However, many local governments are choosing an outright ban of the problem product, with more names being added to the list of cities and counties banning foam products each month. Currently in California, over 50 cities and counties have enacted some type of ban.
Dart Co. was recently investigated by the Sacramento District Attorney for advertising their products as recyclable in the Sacramento area--despite the unavailability of recycling facilities near Sacramento residents. Although the City of Corona and nearby areas may now have this option, it does not deter from the fact that uses for recycled eps remain limited and are mostly isolated to making packaging materials that may or may not be recyclable themselves.
Regardless, Dart Co. has initiated programs in several schools around the country to distribute and recycle their foam lunch trays. Due to food residue, such products will have to go through a cleaning facility (such as the one opening in Corona) before it can be recycled. We note, however, that the new center may only have the capacity to accommodate smaller school districts. It currently accepts one million trays a month; the Los Angeles School District alone generates roughly half a million lunch trays a day.
Because of the low recycling rate and limited market for recycled eps, CAW believes the best method to deal with the environmental and health problems inherent in the use and disposal of epsis to reduce it at the source. Polystyrene food packaging (like eps) contributes disproportionately to oceanic plastic pollution, with over 80% of this pollution originating from urban litter. Its aerodynamic and brittle characteristics make it a problematic product for cleanup and disposal/recycling, and even with Dart Co.’s initiative to recycle it, that does little to offset the amount of polystyrene produced in California alone.
Write to your Assembly Member urging them to vote for SB 568 here.
To stay up to date on SB 568, visit our legislative page.