When Culver City passed a ban on polystyrene that went into effect in November of 2017, the focus was on getting take-out food into compostable containers. At the meeting of March 8, 2021, the council discussed making that ban broader, with a focus on the next step up the ladder; retailers and suppliers that are still selling polystyrene, both as packaging and as a product in the city.
A presentation from the Department of Public Works noted that Lots of cites are now expanding these ordinances.” Environmental Programs & Operations Manager Kim Braun of Public Works offered “Many other cities in southern California have already moved on these ordinances.”
Pressed by Council member Goran Eriksson to give a clear definition as to what had already been banned and what the new ban would cover, Braun said “In the original ordinance we did ban [plastic ] #6 and styrofoam [containers] and we also banned coolers that were not based in a another product. That’s as far as we went with the first ordinance.”
Including styrofoam used as packaging, specific to meat that is sold in the grocery stores, banning all take out food from being offered in any kind of plastic of styrofoam “that does not decompose at the rate required by the composting facilities.”
“The last component – much further down the road – will be to require re-usables at dine in facilities. There are some fast food facilities that, even if you are sitting down to dine in, sit serve you in a disposable plastic containers.”
All of this is not just about creating a greener world; much of the push for further prohibitions on styrofoam and plastic impact the bottom line on how much Public Works has to spend to process the city’s waste.
One of those who spoke from the virtual podium, John Charles Meyer, offered a boost to the food service industry via a new non-profit organization, Plastic Free Restaurants.org. “What this organization does is to subsidize the cost difference, eliminating the biggest hurdle [for compostable take-out containers] We raise money from private donors and subsidize the cost difference, and we’d be happy to work with as many Culver City restaurants that want to work with us.”
Council member Albert Vera, Jr. noted that “[Economic] recovery is going to be a long time coming, and while the cost [of recycling] went up significantly, what cost can you really put on the environment?”
“We know that companies are making these commitments and changing the way they do things, so we need to do that.” Council member Yasmine Imani McMorrin also noted that multi-family housing did not have easily accessible composting and recycling opportunities, and that the city could and should offer more support for residents.
After long discussion, Mayor Alex Fisch agreed that there were many details still to be worked out on the expansion of the polystyrene ban, so no vote on the matter went forward.