(September 21, 2011) California Chamber of Commerce-opposed legislation that threatens thousands of manufacturing jobs within the state through a polystyrene food container ban failed to move in the Assembly in the closing days of the legislative session.
SB 568 (Lowenthal; D-Long Beach) inappropriately bans all food vendors from using polystyrene foam food service containers, ignoring the numerous environmental benefits associated with polystyrene products.
Polystyrene food service packaging requires less energy and resources to manufacture than comparable paper-based products, leaving a lighter footprint. For example, a polystyrene foam cup requires about 50% less energy to produce—and creates significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) —than a similar coated paper-based cup with its corrugated sleeve. Because these packaging products weigh less than their alternatives, they also result in fewer GHG emissions during transportation.
The CalChamber highlighted SB 568 in the first installment of its news network project as legislators returned to Sacramento in August for the final month of the session.
In the news video, owners of a Sacramento café talked about how the proposed ban would drive up costs and require them to increase menu prices, something they had tried to avoid in a down economy because it could drive away customers.
Subsequent coverage of the bill by KTTV in Los Angeles included an interview with Joe Thompson, owner of Gold Rush Grille and Crisp Catering in Sacramento. He pointed out that the passage of SB 568 will increase his food packaging costs by two to three times his current rates.
“So for a business like mine, a small guy like me, you’re talking the difference of $150 to $250 a week in increased costs for the same product, which is a part-time employee that I either have to let go or a full-time employee I have to take down to part-time,” Thompson said.
Thompson made similar points in a Fox News interview.
Problems with Ban
In testimony and letters, CalChamber Policy Advocate Brenda M. Coleman warned that the polystyrene food container ban in SB 568 threatens manufacturing jobs within the state.
Problems the CalChamber highlighted with SB 568 included:
- SB 568 creates an unfair and shortsighted recycling mandate for just polystyrene containers. California’s bottle deposit program includes beverages packaged in glass, aluminum and plastic; a similar approach should be used when addressing take-out food packaging. The CalChamber would welcome a recycling discussion provided no one material is put at a competitive disadvantage.
- Establishing an arbitrary 60% recycling rate in such a short time frame is not only unrealistic, but puts the fate of industry in the hands of local government.
- Thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs at California-based companies that make polystyrene containers will be in jeopardy if SB 568 is passed. Payroll and property taxes will diminish and goods and services provided by suppliers, vendors and others will decline as well.
- Restaurants, caterers, delis and other food providers will see their operating costs rise as polystyrene containers cost two to three times less than replacement products, which in some cases do not perform as well, especially for very hot and cold food and beverages.
- Focusing on a single material type does not reduce litter. The city of San Francisco banned polystyrene containers but according to a 2008 litter audit conducted for the city, paper cup litter increased after the ban was enacted.
Assembly Appropriations Vote
On August 25, SB 568 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on a vote of 9-5:
Ayes: Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), C. Calderon (D-Montebello), Campos (D-San Jose), Davis (D-Los Angeles), Fuentes (D-Sylmar), Gatto (D-Los Angeles), Hill (D-San Mateo), Lara (D-Los Angeles), Solorio (D-Anaheim).
Noes: Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), Harkey (R-Dana Point), Nielsen (R-Gerber), Norby (R-Fullerton), Wagner (R-Irvine).
Absent/Abstaining/Not Voting: Bradford (D-Gardena), Hall (D-Los Angeles), Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).
On September 8, the bill was moved to the Assembly inactive file at the request of Assemblyman Charles Calderon.
Staff Contact: Brenda M. Coleman