Published On: Tue, Jul 19th, 2011

Are Food Folk Ignoring Polystyrene Ban?

July 1 marked not only the lead-up to Independence Day, but also the start of the foam

polystyrene – a component of Styrofoam – ban in Livermore.

Under the ordinance, all food vendors within the city of Livermore which are currently offering, or which will offer, disposable foodservice ware “shall provide disposable foodservice ware that is either recyclable or compostable.”

Freedom was declared in our town from foam polystyrene, a synthetic chemical found in Styrofoam, that has been placed on the U.S. government’s list of known carcinogenics. The product is virtually unrecyclable and has been a major contributor of litter blight.

But that little toxic rebel just refuses to be put down.

Just like an episode of “Hoarders” makes me frightened of my magazine piles or “Biggest Loser” points the spotlight on my burgeoning waist line, the recent Patch article on banning foam polystyrene in Livermore made me aware of every take-away container in the city.

For the past few days, my eye has been drawn to the overabundance of this material still in use in our town.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure that the plastic provides the perfect material to keep our food warm and or cold in a very cheap manner, but even non-tree huggers are aware that it is a dangerous material for workers manufacturing it and for the environment in general.

So I applaud our city leaders for going for the ban. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if that many food establishments are taking the foam polystyrene expulsion seriously.

I’ll readily admit this was a poor excuse for a study in compliance, but a casual sampling of various places around town where you can buy anything from a full meal to a yogurt revealed a shocking lack of compliance.

On one day alone, I spied plenty of containers made from the material being used around town, from a small ethnic restaurant near downtown to the huge corporate giant Applebee’s.

According to the Patch story, waivers can be granted to small businesses claiming they will suffer a major financial hardship by complying.

But Applebee’s? You can’t sell that smelly pelt around these woods.

After the Patch article about the new ordinance, which was passed last fall, and the potential difficulty in enforcing that ban, I expected to see just the mom-and-pop shops still using the banned containers.

What I didn’t expect were the corporate scofflaws.

As I walked into Applebee’s for lunch, I noticed several tables of eaters getting ready to clear out. They all had their leftovers packaged in what looked like foam polystyrene containers. A stop by a local Panda Express revealed the Chinese fast food place was still using similar-looking containers to package their meals.

Perhaps those containers were the last of a supply, but wouldn’t it have been easier for the corporate giants to simply ship those outlawed containers to a town without the ban and then purchase new, eco-friendly ware to set an example of being a good Livermore citizen?

Even smaller shops, like the Yogurt Delight chain store in the Portola Shopping Center, couldn’t seem to cut loose of the sty-ware. While they had some eco-friendly looking containers, the big cups made with what looked like the traditional foam polystyrene were sitting there as well.

I’m not out to hurt the little guys. They may have been granted a stay by the city so they can finish cleaning out their inventory. Livermore’s Environment and Energy Committee can grant a one-year exemption if the owner can prove compliance would result in an “undue hardship.”

It’s hard enough to make a living in the food industry without an additional expense. But it seems like a cost that could be absorbed by the national chains.

On the other hand, the penalties set forth aren’t much to a big cheese.

After issuing a written warning, there is only a $100 fine if the business doesn’t comply. A second violation within six months is just $200 and the fine doesn’t go up to $500 until a third citation.

And that’s if the city even has the manpower to keep tabs on those not in compliance.

If you are going to have a ban, then you need some teeth in the enforcement. It will be interesting to see how the city handles the issue going forward.

 

Source : livermore.patch.com