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California’s two largest cities ban plastic foam

San Diego and Los Angeles join hundreds of municipalities nationwide that are phasing out polystyrene

By Joseph Winters - Grist

In a major victory against plastic pollution, city council members in Los Angeles and San Diego voted on Tuesday to ban the distribution of expanded polystyrene, the foamy plastic that’s used in disposable coffee cups and takeout food containers.

“Expanded polystyrene has no place in our city’s future,” LA councilmember Mitch O’Farrell told reporters on Tuesday.

Starting next April, large companies in California’s two most populous cities will be prohibited from giving out or selling dishes, cups, and other products made from plastic foam. The bans, which are expected to be signed into law by the mayors of each city, make some exemptions for products like surfboards and coolers that are encased in a “more durable material,”, and LA will give businesses with fewer than 27 employees an extra year to comply with its ordinance. San Diego’s ban grants a one-year extension to businesses that make less than $500,000 annually.

LA and San Diego will now join hundreds of jurisdictions around the country that have moved to phase out plastic foam, including eight U.S. states and other major California cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland. And the material will soon be restricted across California, thanks to a state law passed earlier this year called the Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act. The legislation stopped short of outright banning polystyrene statewide but will require plastic producers to demonstrate that at least 25 percent of it is actually recycled by 2025 — a “de facto ban,” according to some environmental advocates, since polystyrene isn’t recyclable at virtually any of the state’s material recovery facilities, and less than 1 percent of it is recycled nationwide.


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