AB 1358 aims to ban polystyrene food containers

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, March 13, 2009

Of the 2,657 bills introduced through February 27, one, AB 1358 (Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo), would ban polystyrene food containers. It prohibits a food vendor or restaurant from dispensing prepared food to a customer in a disposable expanded polystyrene food container, a disposable non-recyclable plastic food container, or a disposable non-recycled paper container. The purpose is to encourage the use of compostable plastic containers in jurisdictions where organic waste is collected curbside, and recyclable plastic and paper containers.

In addition, the bill would prohibit a state facility from using polystyrene foam or expanded polystyrene foam food service containers, and would prohibit a state department or state agency from purchasing or acquiring polystyrene foam or expanded polystyrene foam disposable food service ware for use at state facilities.

This bill was due in part to the recommendation of the Ocean Protection Counsel (OPC) and their goal to clean the ocean of debris. While many of their suggestions have merit and are worthy of further debate, the focus should be to coordinate education and outreach campaigns or direct state funds for removal of ocean litter and litter education. A proposed ban on plastic polystyrene food service packaging will negatively impact many California manufacturing companies and businesses.

Changing the composition of packaging does little to focus on the core issue of reducing all forms of litter in the marine debris stream. The recognition of how it will impact California’s economy should be taken into account when such bans are considered. CMTA has members that produce polystyrene products and this could result in whole facilities closing down production. The need to address the core issue of public littering should be the focus of such bills rather than statewide bans.

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