​Ban on Foam Food Containers to Face Assembly Fiscal Committee Scrutiny

(August 2, 2011) California Chamber of Commerce-opposed legislation that threatens thousands of manufacturing jobs within the state through a polystyrene food container ban is scheduled for consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee on August 17.

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.

CalChamber Policy Advocate Brenda M. Coleman warns that the polystyrene food container ban in SB 568 threatens thousands of manufacturing jobs within the state.

The CalChamber has been highlighting the following problems with SB 568:

  • SB 568 creates an unfair and shortsighted recycling mandate for just polystyrene containers. Why is other take-out food packaging not subject to the recycling mandate? 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. 
  • The bill permits use of polystyrene foam food containers after January 1, 2016 if the city or county where the food vendor does business has a recycling program under which at least 60 percent of the polystyrene foam containers generated each year are recycled. 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. Industry has little if any control over what types of products are collected via local recycling programs and focusing on just one material type is shortsighted. 
  • 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. At a time when California’s unemployment rate is at 11.9%, the state’s top focus should be on job creation not job elimination. 
  • Restaurants, caterers, delis and other food providers will see their operating costs rise as polystyrene containers are two to three times more affordable than replacement products, which in some cases do not perform as well, especially for very hot and cold food and beverages. This could result in reduced worker hours, potential employee cutbacks at restaurants that are operating on thin margins and higher costs for consumers. 
  • 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. Bans result in litter substitution, not elimination. 
  • The bill exempts correctional facilities but ignores higher costs for state agencies, schools and universities. A Bay Area hospital reported that its costs would rise by $140,000 to purchase alternative food packaging products if a similar, local ordinance was passed.

Action Needed

Contact Assembly members and urge them to oppose SB 568.

A sample letter is available at www.calchambervotes.com.

Staff Contact: Brenda M. Coleman