San Francisco supervisors have adopted the most extensive Styrofoam ban in the US.
The new citywide law, approved unanimously on Tuesday night, bans the sale of polystyrene foam as of Jan 1,2017. It includes everything from foam egg cartons and packing peanuts to ice chests and beach toys.
Companies that violate the foam ban face fines starting at $100 for the first violation and increasing up to $500 for the third and subsequent violation.
The ban strengthens San Francisco’s earlier 2007 law that prohibited serving food in polystyrene. While San Francisco was one of the first major cities to restrict foam packaging, more than 100 US cities now have either banned or limited polystyrene.
Board of supervisors president London Breed who introduced the legislation said polystyrene cannot be recycled in San Francisco, it never biodegrades and pollutes waterways. “The science is clear: this stuff is an environmental and public health pollutant, and we have to reduce its use,” Breed said. “There are ample cost effective alternatives to Styrofoam on the market.”
While environmentalists cheered the legislation, some industry groups expressed concern over the ban.
“I’m appalled,” said Betsy Steiner, spokeswoman for EPS Alliance, which represents manufacturers who make packaging materials out of Styrofoam and polystyrene, told NBC. “We’re opposed to the plan. There are serious errors in their statistical representation.”
She said her group may take legal action against San Francisco.
She said her group is considering whether to take any legal action against San Francisco, and is worried it will inspire similar legislation in other areas.
The California Grocers Association also expressed concerns and pushed for more time to find alternatives to Styrofoam.
The California Restaurant Association has opposed polystyrene and other packaging bans across the state because it says alternative packaging costs two to three times as much as polystyrene products, which also performs better.
“The CRA believes that further expansion of foam recycling efforts and infrastructure is a better approach than a single discriminatory ban on a given type of packaging,” the group said in a statement. “Some localities that have banned foam food containers are now setting their sights on the next packaging material to eliminate, creating constant unpredictability for the industry in terms of what packaging material may be available on the market.
The recyclability of polystyrene foam has been a hot topic in New York City, which had banned foam foodservice items before the the New York State Supreme Court overturned the foam ban, saying that EPS is recyclable and calling the ban “arbitrary and capricious.”