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Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

City to hold public hearings on styrofoam ban ordinance


Davis will be the 100th municipality in California to accept the ban

The City of Davis plans to hold a series of public hearings regarding enactment of a proposed ban on polystyrene foam, or styrofoam. The ban will be applicable to all businesses and restaurants that serve food and beverages starting September 2017, according a City Council meeting held on the evening of April 25.  

“This ordinance basically requests restaurants to use compostable or recyclable utensils or containers,” said Richard Tsai, the environmental resources manager for the Public Works Department of the City of Davis. “[This ordinance] is a very educational piece and important piece for our environmental program.”

It is not the first time that this ordinance has been considered by the City Council of the City of Davis. The ordinance was first proposed back in 2011 when the Council passed the Zero Waste Resolution Program, requesting staff to develop zero waste programs and was discussed again in 2013 in connection with the city’s updated Integrated Waste Management Plan. Tsai argued that passage of the styrofoam ordinance would not have been prudent until an organics program was implemented, like the one in 2016, which made composting certain food and beverage containers possible.

“Right now, there is 70 percent compliance voluntarily by restaurants in Davis that are already using non expanded polystyrene containers,” Tsai said.

Community members and local groups like the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) in Davis have pressed City Council for passage of the ban for years. Those who are pro-ban are supportive of the environmental benefits from using alternative types of food packaging products.

“I’m delighted to see this item finally coming before council,” said Alan Pryor, a resident of Davis. “Since then, however, we have heard every possible excuse given to us as to why this could not be moved forward.”

Pryor argued that it was the implementation of the plastic bag ban and compost programs, overextended staff members and CEQA law issues that pushed the ban on styrofoam back from the time a draft was introduced to the city by the NRC in 2011.

Throughout the state, many municipalities have already implemented bans on polystyrene because of the amount of waste generation that ends up in landfills due to environmental damage, which has negatively impacted oceans and marine life.

“According to the staff report, [we’ll be] the 100th jurisdiction in California to enact such an ordinance, so we are certainly not alone,” said Lucas Frerichs, a Davis councilmember. “There’s strong public support, not only in our community, but in many places in California for this same policy.”

During council deliberations, Frerichs defended the staff for their tireless work on other critical environmental projects implemented in the city, such as the plastic bag ban and integrated waste management plan.

“Yes, it’s taken a bit of time for the staff to bring this item forward to us, but it’s not for a lack of working on other priorities identified by this body, as well as previous city councils,” Frerichs said.

Nearing the end of discussion on the issue, two motions were made and passed unanimously by all council members. The first motion was to put the polystyrene ban item out for public hearing and to accept the negative declaration, while additionally altering the effective start date of the ordinance from July 1 to Sept. 1 of this year.

The second motion was made by council member Rochelle Swanson, requesting that an amendment to the ordinance be made, providing that restaurant owners shall not provide single use straws except upon request by the customer, with exemption to drive through and to go orders.

“500 million straws end up in the ocean all the time; it’s the number one piece of litter that’s picked up on beaches, so that’s why I specifically wanted to bring it up as part of this ordinance and part of our entire educational piece,” Swanson said.
Written By: Anya Rehon — city@theaggie.org


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