An ordinance banning nonrecyclable disposable food service containers in the city was given the thumbs up and unanimously approved at its second and final reading by the Santa Monica City Council at its meeting Tuesday, January 9th.

At the first reading of the ordinance last month, over 24 people spoke at the meeting — most in support of the ordinance. This second reading was a quick one; the ordinance was expected to be passed by the council without much discussion.

The ordinance bans nonrecyclable disposable food containers, including clear and expanded polystyrene (EPS) from all public, private and nonprofit entities in Santa Monica. EPS is what many know as Styrofoam and is labeled with recycling number 6.

As a result, the ordinance prohibits the dispensing of prepared food to customers in disposable food service containers made from nonrecyclable plastic, including expanded and clear polystyrene, and requires that these containers be made from biodegradable materials.

These containers include plates, bowls, cups, trays and hinged or lidded containers, but not single-use disposable items such as utensils, or single-use disposable packaging for unprepared foods.

This ordinance applies to all food providers, including but not limited to restaurants, delis, grocery stores, organizations, and groups and individuals that serve food prepared in Santa Monica, said Dean Kubani, environmental programs manager for the City of Santa Monica.

The ordinance will take effect Thursday, February 8th, for city facilities and its managed concessions, as well as for events permitted or sponsored by the city.

However, the ordinance will not go into effect for another year for businesses in the city to “allow [city] staff to work with affected businesses to identify alternatives and vendors that provide alternatives,” said Kubani.

Some members of the community have expressed concerns about finding alternatives to expanded polystyrene plastic foam, one of the least expensive food packaging products available.

But there are many alternatives out there, including paper, aluminum, rigid plastic and bio-products manufactured from cornstarch, sugar cane and other products.

At the first reading of the ordinance last month, Allan Haskell, owner of CaterGreen! Zero Waste Solutions in Los Angeles, showed some biodegradable alternatives his company makes.

The nonrecyclable ban was initiated in response to growing concerns about the environmental and economic impact of nonrecyclable containers on beach and marine environments.

Studies have documented the prevalence of EPS debris in the environment and its significant negative environmental impact on beaches and the marine environment, said Kubani.

“Expanded polystyrene and nonrecyclable plastics make up the majority of the waste that ends up on the beach and the marine environment,” Kubani said.

The cost of implementing the ordinance will not be much for the city.

Buying alternatives to nonrecyclable plastic for the city would cost a “few hundred dollars,” said Kubani.

It will cost the city about $31,000 in office supplies and $15,715 for an analyst to assist the city with implementing the ordinance.

The director of the Environmental and Public Works Management Division for the city will have primary responsibilty for enforcement.

Several cities have already adopted similar citywide bans, including Malibu and Oakland.

“I think the ordinance will have a positive environmental effect for Santa Monica’s beaches,” said Kubani.

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