Pismo Beach City Council eyes ban on Styrofoam

Food packaging made from polystyrene foam.
Food packaging made from polystyrene foam.

Pismo Beach is taking steps to become the second city in San Luis Obispo County to ban Styrofoam food and drink containers.

The Pismo Beach City Council briefly considered the idea of prohibiting extruded polystyrene foam food and drink containers — Styrofoam is the trademarked brand — within the city at its meeting Tuesday night.

Council members Sheila Blake, Mary Ann Reiss, Erik Howell and Mayor Shelly Higginbotham all said they would support an ordinance banning Styrofoam in the city, and directed staff to bring a draft ordinance before the council at a future meeting.

"I'm definitely in support of it. Even with public outreach, I think it would great to have an ordinance, and have the restaurants get ready for it," Blake said. "Styrofoam is a poison. Especially to the ocean — it's murder on the ocean."

Councilman Ed Waage said he would prefer to ask the community to voluntarily stop using the product, rather than ordaining it, but voted in favor of bringing the ban back to the council.

In a survey of its members, the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce found that 15 of 26 respondents said they do use Styrofoam products, but all said they would be willing to consider not using extruded polystyrene foam if they were given adequate time and resources to switch to a different product, community development director Jon Biggs said Tuesday night.

Extruded polystyrene foam food containers are non-biodegradable and a significant source of litter throughout the county, Biggs said. San Luis Obispo County has no facilities that are capable of recycling Styrofoam products.

The San Luis Obispo City Council unanimously voted to ban the food and drink containers in June.

More than 80 cities in California have similar regulations. The San Luis Obispo council decided to pursue an ordinance after a coalition of groups and individuals in the city urged the council to pass a ban.

Robert Robert and Anita Shower, who head up the nonprofit Eco Club of Five Cities, hold zero-waste events in the Five Cities area, sorting trash into recyclable, compostable and landfill materials.

"I can tell you from experience that 99 percent of what goes to the landfill is Styrofoam, from our events," Robert said at the meeting. "We fill up bins and bins of Styrofoam at each event."

The husband and wife team were largely responsible for the council's consideration of a ban on Tuesday night.

"We would love for Pismo Beach to be right next to San Luis Obispo and ban this substance," Shower said.