Talk:Malibu, CA Polystyrene

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Expandable polystyrene products, when used for food service purposes, have a useful life that can be measured in minutes or hours, yet take several decades to hundreds of years to deteriorate in the environment of a landfill. There is currently no meaningful way to recycle expandable polystyrene food service products, due in part to contamination from food residue. Alternative products that are bio-degradable, less prone to wind and water transport, reusable and/or recyclable are readily available at a reasonable cost.

A member of the Malibu community requested that the Council adopt a ban against the use of polystyrene containers by take-out restaurants in an effort to reduce pollution of the City’s beaches. Based on the above justification, the City of Malibu moved into action to create an environment where you can Ride the Waves Without the Waste and implemented a ban on expanded polystyrene foam throughout the City.

In July 2004, the Council directed staff to research the legality and practicality of an ordinance prohibiting the use of expandable polystyrene at restaurants. City staff contacted representatives from Los Angles County Beaches and Harbors who indicated their support for a ban on expanded polystyrene. It was also determined that several Southern California cities, including the cities of Huntington Beach, San Clemente, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills and San Juan Capistrano, have adopted resolutions prohibiting the use of expandable polystyrene (commonly, and incorrectly, referred to by the trade name “Styrofoam”) food service products within City facilities and at City-sponsored events. Furthermore, in 1986, the City of Portland, Oregon, adopted an ordinance banning polystyrene foam food containers (Portland City Code Chapter 9.28). This ban is still in effect and continues to be successfully implemented and enforced.

Based on the foregoing information, as well as the Council’s desire to protect the environment and reduce litter on its beaches, on February 28, 2005, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 276, which bans polystyrene food service products (intended to take effect on July 1, 2005).

Since that time, the ordinance has been refined to clarify its applicability. This was necessary due to the fact that this was new territory for a city. On May 13, 2005, prior to Ordinance No. 276 actually taking effect, the Council reconsidered Ordinance No. 276 based on input from the business community and directed staff to bring back amendments to limit the ban to expandable polystyrene foam. Ordinance No. 286, limiting the ban to expanded polystyrene, rather than all polystyrene, was presented to the Council on June 27, 2005. When the ordinance was presented to the Council for second reading, the Council directed staff to further amend the ordinance so that the sale of multiple unit packages of expanded polystyrene intended for personal use was not affected and to add a provision prohibiting the use of expanded polystyrene foam within City facilities and at City-sponsored events.

Ride the Waves Without the Waste
On July 25, 2005, the City Council introduced Ordinance No. 286 on first reading and scheduled second reading and adoption for the August 8, 2005 Regular City Council meeting. The lesson learned from this experience was that when a brand new policy is being considered, a process of refining the law will be a necessity.

Madelyn Glickfeld, visiting lecturer at UCLA’s Institute on the Environment, in conjunction with the Southern California Coastal Water Resource Project (also known as SCCWRP) and Heal the Bay, is working on a plan to conduct a two to three year study to monitor any changes in the amount of polystyrene trash on beaches in Malibu that might be attributable to the enforcement of the ban on expanded polystyrene in Malibu. The objective will be to develop a study design that includes a set of beach sampling sites, a sampling methodology and time schedule for taking baseline and subsequent monitoring samples. SCCWRP has published peer-reviewed studies of plastic waste on beaches in Newport Beach and Redondo Beach. Heal the Bay has agreed to provide volunteers through its extensive volunteer program and assist in the design of the sample locations and monitoring protocol. Ms. Glickfeld is working with both organizations to help design the study, and with the City to monitor enforcement and compliance of the ordinance. She is also hopeful that faculty from the Institute of the Environment can identify funding to understand the role of ocean currents in depositing plastics already in the ocean back onto beaches in the area, as well as watershed contributions, but no commitments of time or funding have been made as of this time.

City staff has been informed that the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors is already spreading the word of the ban on polystyrene and is prepared to enforce compliance. Purchasing agents for local businesses have started buying only paper cups.

Adoption of City of Malibu Ordinance No. 286 banning expanded polystyrene food packing is one example of Malibu’s dedication to protecting the beach environment and a step toward preventing debris from entering the local waterways and becoming part of the ocean marine debris problem.

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