JULY 2011

California Senate votes to ban foam containers

Foam containers banned

The California Senate has narrowly passed a bill banning vendors from using Styrofoam containers for takeout food in California. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation.

The bill, introduced by Senator Alan Lowenthal, prohibits vendors including restaurants and grocery stores from providing prepared food in expanded polystyrene containers beginning January 1, 2014. Under an amendment to the bill, the ban would apply to restaurants and vendors after January 1, 2016, and to schools after July 1, 2017.

Expanded polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam, is a lightweight plastic that accounts for up to 15 percent of storm drain litter, according to the California Department of Transportation.

The bill allows for businesses to continue using the containers if the city it is located in has a recycling program for the products and 50 percent of the foam is recycled. “This is not a ban,” Senator Alan Lowenthal said on the Senate floor during the debate. “If the city has an effective recycling program, you can continue to serve with the foam.”

The California Chamber of Commerce said the bill threatens hundreds of jobs at California companies that make the foam containers. “I introduced this bill not just to solve an environmental problem that plagues our state, but because it’s a job booster for California,” Lowenthal said. He added that many companies in California making alternatives to polystyrene takeout packaging, including compostable materials, foil and paper.

Bill SB 568 passed on a bipartisan 21-15 vote. The bill now heads to the Assembly with a floor vote by the end of August.