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Los Angeles officials ban Styrofoam products in move toward 'zero-waste' city

Gregory Yee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council has approved a new ban on certain single-use plastics, taking the latest step in an effort toward becoming a "zero-waste" city.

All 12 council members present for Tuesday's meeting voted to approve an ordinance that prohibits the distribution and sale of expanded polystyrene products, more commonly known by the trade name Styrofoam.

The new ban comes alongside two similar ordinances — which closed loopholes in the city's single-use plastic bag ban and will require city departments to have zero-waste practices at city facilities and events — that were also passed without an opposing vote Tuesday.

"Today, Los Angeles is once again taking the lead in defense of our environment," said Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell. "We're leading by example by committing to zero-waste policies in the operation of the city, and we're moving forward with some of the boldest local ordinances in the country to reduce single-use plastic waste."

The expanded polystyrene ban will take effect April 23 and is aimed at large food or beverage facilities such as restaurants, coffee shops, bars and vendors; as well as large retail establishments, defined as "any commercial establishment located within the city that sells goods directly to customers primarily for the customer's own consumption or use."

Businesses with more than 26 employees will be affected, according to the ordinance. If a business is part of a state or national chain, "the employee count shall include all employees of that chain."

 

Some products will be exempt from the ban, including surfboards or coolers that are completely enclosed "in a more durable material"; craft supplies; packaging or containers for drugs, medical devices or biological materials; safety devices such as life preservers, helmets and vehicle impact prevention systems; and certain construction and building materials.

Health facilities and residential care facilities for the elderly will be exempt from the ban, according to the ordinance. The ban can also be temporarily suspended if the U.S. president or California governor declares "a disaster or local emergency" in Los Angeles.

Such a temporary suspension must be enacted by a City Council resolution that's subject to the mayor's approval and would allow "any food or beverage facility or retail establishment" assisting with disaster relief efforts to use expanded polystyrene to distribute food or beverages "to any person using a city facility," according to the ordinance.

When the council voted in April to direct the city attorney to draft the ordinances targeting plastics, members cited the blight of litter on the streets, in parks and waterways and on the beaches, and noted the cost of picking up and processing such refuse.

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