Taking a step towards solving the global warming crisis, the City of Santa Monica has banned the use of non-recyclable food containers.
The ban was approved by the City Council due to concern over the polluting effects Styrofoam and other non-recyclable plastic products were having on Santa Monica’s bay and beaches. The City website states that most beach litter is from these products, which, in addition to causing environmental damage, can be ingested by marine animals and seabirds who mistake them for food.
All City facilities and operations, City-managed concessions, and City-sponsored and permitted events began observing the ban last year, on February 9. Restaurants were given until this week so they had time to phase in the changes. The City’s Environmental Programs Manager, Dean Kubani, told the Mirror the City has been “working with area restaurants for the last six months on the ban” to help them find alternative containers. In terms of cost, most of the alternatives are more expensive, but it “depends on what the restaurant is switching to and how large a quantity they are buying.”
Alternative products are made from materials such as corn, potato starch, sugar cane, paper, cardboard, or aluminum foil. Janabai Amsden, who co-owns the Main Street restaurant Euphoria Loves RAWvolution with her husband, Matt, thinks eventually plastic containers will “become more expensive than the recyclable containers as gas prices go up.” She says prices for biodegradable products will drop as the “infrastructure increases” to produce them.
Amsden’s restaurant has used biodegradable products from the time it opened two years ago. That decision was made because “as a business owner I feel I have a larger responsibility for waste,” especially since her industry produces so much waste. She also mentioned that customers are coming in and trying to buy biodegradable products from her.
City Councilmember Kevin McKeown made the following statement on the ban: “During the full year phase-in we opted for, our ability to completely wean city departments and events from Styrofoam have shown it can be done. Staff has been exemplary in reaching out to local businesses in preparation for the Citywide ban starting later this week, helping them find vendors and understand how cost-effective use of alternative containers can help our environment and particularly Santa Monica Bay.”
Having City “inspectors going out to different restaurants checking to see if they are complying” is not how Kubani foresees enforcing the ban. Instead, the City will investigate complaints from restaurant customers or “from other businesses that are complying.” Violators will receive warning letters, and if they still don’t comply they will be fined.
Amsden believes the use of recyclable products “removes any bad feelings when a person finishes a meal.” To her, “This feeling should be good and not attached to a subtle guilt.”