Polystyrene- Pros and Cons of the Material


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a study to examine the large ban on the use of takeout containers this past Tuesday. Sheila Kuehl stated that polystyrene, the sympathetic material that is used in many food service boxes, is usually so light that it easily blows out of trash cans, and from there blows into local bodies of water. From there, she says, it breaks down into smaller pieces that are harmful to both wildlife and humans. Kuehl used a photograph to illustrate a “trash island” that showed how take-out boxes blew away to gather at the shorelines of local beaches and lakes.

In 2011, a proposed ban on polystyrene had been brought up when the Department of Public Works for the county explored the options of using other products within the food industry. The study reported back that there were viable alternatives that would not cost much for businesses to implement. However, the board did not end up voting on the band, pending a state bill that would have banned polystyrene containers all across California. According to Kuehl, 110 municipalities, including West Hollywood, Pasadena, and Hermosa Beach all adopted ordinances that either prohibited or restricted the use of polystyrene containers. She stated that since the last study on the issue, there have been new products that are biodegradable and environmentally friendly, as well as cost effective for companies to use. However, other organizations, such as the California Grocers Association and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, opposed the idea, stating that there are too many misconceptions when it comes to polystyrene and its outcome on the environment.

Adena Tessler, a spokesperson for the California Restaurant Association, would like the board to consider what a ban would mean to smaller, family-owned restaurants. She believes that new products will not reduce landfill waste and would cost more for businesses to implement. Anne Nguyen, a spokesperson for the Dart Container Corporation, stated that the company hires 650 Californians and a proposed ban may in turn cause unemployment if there is less work for employees to do. She stated that the company does want to work to improve the products that they sell, but any alternatives to polystyrene cannot be recycled. She says that polystyrene can only be recycled if there is no food waste on it.
County departments will be presenting a practical study concerning the issue in 120 days.