Two years ago, in a legislative effort to help protect the environment, San Luis Obispo’s City Council banned the sale and use of Styrofoam food and drink containers in retail stores, restaurants and vending booths.
Over the past week, an examination by The Tribune of grocery and drug stores citywide showed that four businesses were out of compliance with the city law, selling products like Styrofoam plates, bowls, coolers or cups.
Two businesses have corrected the issue by removing foam products, according to store representatives.
Expanded polystyrene (commonly referred to as Styrofoam), or simply foam, isn’t biodegradable and often gets scattered in watersheds such as San Luis Obispo Creek and on beaches where birds can digest the materials.
On Oct., 9, a resident posted on Facebook that the Target store at 11990 Los Osos Valley Road was selling Styrofoam plates, cups and coolers in violation of the city ordinance, which was passed in 2015. After a city inspection last week based on a citizen complaint, the store has pulled Styrofoam from its shelves.
“Target is committed to providing high-quality and safe products to our guests,” said Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck in an email. “... We’ve removed most polystyrene products from our store and are working quickly to remove the few remaining products. We’ve also locked these items at our store registers, so guests will be unable to purchase the products if they happen to find them before they are removed.”
Styrofoam products also were displayed for sale at three additional stores: Rite Aid at 956 Foothill Blvd., CVS at 1300 Madonna Rd., and Costco at 1540 Froom Ranch Way. Rite Aid displayed Big Win brand foam plates, CVS offered Hefty brand foam bowls and plates, and Costo stocked Hefty foam plates in bulk.
A Rite Aid official said the University Square store removed its products Monday.
“It appears to have been an accident, as we’re aware of the local ordinance and strive to be in full compliance,” said Rite Aid spokeswoman Ashley Flower. “We’ve removed the product from the shelves and have taken steps to prevent this from happening in the future.”
A Costco official declined to comment Monday. CVS officials also didn’t return requests for comment.
The city’s enforcement involves an inspection, then store notification if the business is failing to comply, and then a followup, said Anne Schneider, the city’s chief building official.
If a store continues to sell Styrofoam, a written notice is issued before a 10-day follow-up inspection. A third complaint can result in $100 fine.
Schneider said that city volunteers informed stores verbally of the new regulations banning Styrofoam after the law’s adoption, and the city also provided businesses information in writing.
We’ve removed most polystyrene products from our store and are working quickly to remove the few remaining products. We’ve also locked these items at our store registers, so guests will be unable to purchase the products if they happen to find them before they are removed.
Jenna Reck, Target
“What can happen is that a manager of a store is up on the ordinance and then six months passes and they change managers, and we keep on having to go back to keep them up on the ordinance,” Schneider said.
Schneider said the city inspected Target last week based on the citizen complaint and then followed up again this week, and the store was found in compliance Monday.
Schneider said she expected to follow up with the other stores based on The Tribune’s review.
Several other stores citywide, including Vons, Grocery Outlet and the 99 Cents Only store were in compliance. Other CVS and Rite Aid retailers in the city also followed the city’s regulations.