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California Legislature Tables Proposed Foam Ban


Contact: Jennifer Killinger, (202) 249-6619  
Email: jennifer_killinger@americanchemistry.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 9, 2011) – A bill in California to ban polystyrene foam used for serving food was set aside by the state Assembly this week. Opponents of the ban cited the likely loss of jobs, expense to the state and unfair recycling rate requirements as flaws in the legislation.

The makers of plastic foodservice packaging expressed appreciation to legislators who have been supportive of protecting manufacturing jobs in California.

“When legislators learned more about polystyrene foam foodservice packaging, and particularly the bill’s impact on jobs and the state budget, support for the ban faded,” said Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the American Chemistry Council. “An economic analysis for similar legislation in 2009 concluded that California would lose nearly $1.4 billion in output, $335 million in earnings and close to 8,000 jobs.

“And that doesn’t even include the impact on the Department of General Services budget, state enforcement costs and the untold millions of dollars it would have cost schools that use plastic foam lunch trays.”

Sponsored by state Senator Alan Lowenthal, SB 568 would have banned the use of polystyrene foam products used for serving food and drinks in restaurants, delis, convenience stores, food trucks, schools, government agencies—any facility in California that serves food. Wholesale costs of alternatives are between two to five times higher.

A provision in the bill to exempt jurisdictions that achieve a 60 percent recycling rate was widely considered unfair because no such requirements exist for alternatives. 

“We support the innovative and growing polystyrene recycling programs in Los Angeles and other communities across California,” Christman said, “and we would like to see those expand into more areas. Polystyrene packaging is recycled into everyday consumer products that people can buy at Wal-Mart and other stores. That’s where the state focus should be—improving opportunities to recycle, not banning valuable products.”

Proponents of the bill cited litter as a primary reason for the proposed ban. However, numerous studies have found that polystyrene foam represents a very small portion of litter.

The bill passed in the Senate and will be carried over to next year’s legislative session. ACC welcomes a continued dialogue with lawmakers and other stakeholders on an approach to managing food container litter and disposal—provided such a policy takes into account unintended environmental impacts, cost impacts on businesses and avoids putting manufacturing jobs at risk.

Learn more about polystyrene foam foodservice packaging.

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