Feb 13 - Watsonville Strengthens Bans on Polystyrene and Bags

In March of 2009, the City of Watsonville became the first city in Santa Cruz County to ban polystyrene food containers from restaurants and other retail places and require said places to provide recyclable or compostable take-out ware. The ban was implemented smoothly, and the city noted that there was a reduction in polystyrene trash from landfills and litter.

While the ban was a success, city and environmental groups noted that plastic foam is still the most common type of litter on beaches, coming in the form of foam coolers, packaging peanuts, and typical picnic trash left behind or blown from trash cans. In order to combat this problem, the city council voted 6-0 on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 to amend the original polystyrene ordinance to include all plastic foam products, including items not listed in the original bans like coolers, ice chests, shipping boxes, packing peanuts and beach and pool toys.

In addition to expanding the polystyrene foam ban, the Watsonville City Council also voted to tighten restrictions on plastic bags. Under its original bag ordinance, bags that were 2.25 mils or thicker were classified as reusable and could be given out by grocery stores for free while paper bags could be given out for a charge of 10 cents, later increased to 25 cents. In order to increase durability and reduce waste of plastic reusable bags, the city council passed new restrictions that now required plastic reusable bags to be 4 mils or thicker with 20% post consumer content. Furthermore stores will not be able to give out plastic, paper or any other material bags for free, but instead have a minimum 25 cent charge for the bags.

Both of these measures are expected to be adopted on 2/25/2014. The amended polystyrene ordinance is similar to measures already passed by the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Ojai, and Richmond as well as Santa Cruz County.