Santa Monica City Councilmember Richard Bloom has become mayor of Santa Monica once again. Bloom was also mayor of the City in 2004. Councilmember Herb Katz has been voted mayor pro tem. Katz will become mayor in December 2007, at which time Bloom will then become mayor pro tem.
In other action, the Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will ban all non-recyclable plastic disposable food service containers in Santa Monica, including expanded polystyrene and clear polystyrene (these plastics are designed with the recycling symbol #6). In his staff report to the Council, Dean Kabani, the City’s Environmental Programs Manager, explained this was the best action to take because “these products currently cause significant adverse environmental impacts to Santa Monica beaches, the marine environment and wildlife.”
The ordinance, as described in the staff report, “Applies to all food providers, including but not limited to restaurants, delicatessens, grocery stores, nonprofit and for profit organizations, groups and individuals as well as all City Facilities, City-managed concessions, City-sponsored events and City-permitted events that serve food prepared in Santa Monica.” The ordinance also “allows for a one-year renewable hardship exemption if it can be demonstrated that compliance with the ordinance would cause undue economic hardship to a food provider.” Food service providers will have to comply with the new requirements in one year. The Council had already asked the City to comply beginning June 13, 2006.
Prior to the vote, the Council heard from almost two dozen speakers who were mostly in favor of the ban. Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce President Jim Lynch told the Council, “We want to work with the City and make this as comfortable and effective as possible.”
Many scientists also spoke in favor of the ban. Dr. Marcus Ercikson, from the Alkaleta Research Foundation, noted his research has found “plastic debris outweighs marine life on the surface by a ratio of 6 to 1, and it’s a growing problem.” There is also a huge problem with sinking plastic sediment. “There is one pound for each cubic meter of sediment.” He also stated that recycling doesn’t work because “only 3 1/2 percent of plastics produced are recycled.”
The Executive Director of Heal The Bay, Mark Gold, stressed, “This ban does not go far enough. A ban of all food containers, lids, straws and utensils made of 3-7 [designed] plastic is needed to ensure that only truly recyclable and compostable products are used in the City.”
The Council also heard some objections from the plastics industry. Mark Wolfin of the Dow Chemical Company, who was representing the Polystyrene Packaging Council, stated, “A ban will only change the composition of the litter and debris, not reduce the amount of litter or marine debris.”
Before making the motion to support the ban, Councilmember Kevin McKeown stressed, “Some of the businesses are objecting but the residents who are customers get it. If we handle this right we can make this work.”