The amount of information available on polystyrene at the Sustainability Committee meeting on Sept. 14, 2016 was exhaustive. The City is moving in to another round of recycling the concept of banning and/or reclaiming the difficult substance with more research, more outreach, and still no definitive plan.
The poor options for recycling, the amount of polystyrene lost to landfills, the environmental damage wrought on Ballona Creek and the ocean were all presented repeatedly at the meeting, Ballona Creek Renaissance, The Surfrider Foundation and Transition Culver City were all organizations that sent representatives to speak to the problem of polystyrene. But this was not a one-sided effort. The California Restaurant Association, The Polystyrene Association and professional recycling interests also addressed the meeting.
It came down to the committee – City Council members Göran Eriksson and Meghan Sahli-Wells recycling more than two hours worth of testimony into the next step for the city.
After the lengthy council meeting in August that saw dozens of Culver City residents speaking in favor of a ban on polystyrene, the council recommended the matter back to the Sustainability Committee, which, after Wednesday’s meeting, has opted to have it both ways; more outreach, more research, a test program to recycle and another future possibility of a ban.
Deborah Gregory of the BCR spoke at length about the benefits of moving towards a polystyrene free Culver City, noting that over the last two years has diverted more than 2 tons of waste from entering the ocean, with polystyrene as a major culprit in litter that escapes from proper disposal.
Shea Cunningham, although not officially in capacity as CCUSD sustainability rep spoke about the positive effect of changing the district from polystyrene compostable lunch trays in 2013, an expense difference of 8 cents to 11 cents. She noted the kitchen at CCMS/CCHS is the ‘biggest eatery in CC ” 6000 meals a day.
Cafe Laurent, Cocovivo and Samosa House were all featured in a video on how local restaurants are choosing to use the compostable containers on their own.
Craig Cadwallender of the Surfrider Foundation noted that “in all of the ordinances [in California that ban polystyrene] there is a ‘hardship’ clause, the city will work with any business that has a problem complying with the ban, I cannot find one example of a business that has made use of the hardship clause in any of the 98 cites that have banned polystyrene.
Sonya Coffee of the City of Manhattan Beach spoke about how “We considered ed the health impact, the environmental impacts, and we heard from all these organizations; the effort to recycle only began when we started talking about a ban.”
While the Manhattan Beach ban ban was in put in place in 2014, “We are still getting Starbucks using polystyrene lids, and the company is continuing to work on a better option.”
Polystyrene Industry was of course, against banning the substance. “We aware of the challenges and we want to see our products in recycling and not in the waste stream. Most often a ban leads to replacement products that do not function as well, which ends up creating more stuff going into the waste stream. Santa Barbara rejected a ban [on this basis] .”
At this point, the committee gave direction back to city staff to create a survey for both residents and business as to what substances could be banned, and what other products could be used to replace them. In addition, the option of a test program of recycling and ‘rescuing from landfill’ will come back to the council for approval at a date yet to be determined.