Starting July 1, restaurants, grocery stores and other food providers in Ventura will be banned from using food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene, commonly known by the trademarked name Styrofoam.
The City Council unanimously approved the ban in November on grounds that expanded polystyrene products, frequently used for take-out orders and diners’ leftovers, are harmful to the environment.
The ban doesn’t go into effect until July.
Ventura joined more than 130 other cities and counties in California, including Ojai and Thousand Oaks, to prohibit expanded polystyrene products to some degree, according to a Ventura city staff report last year.
“As a coastal community, we must ensure that we are protecting our environment, natural resources, wildlife and the health of our community,” Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava said in a release Tuesday.
“Polystyrene is one of the most prevalent forms of litter found in our storm drains, creeks, rivers, beaches, parks, and open spaces,” she said. “It’s light, hard to remove and quickly breaks into small pieces.”
It isn’t biodegradable and can’t be recycled either, last year’s staff report noted.
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The city’s ban prohibits any food provider from distributing expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers. Food providers are defined by the city as any person or business located within Ventura city limits that provides prepared food or beverages for public consumption.
They include restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, coffee shops, food trucks and caterers, according to the city ordinance detailing the ban.
Banned expanded polystyrene items include cups, plates, bowls, trays, cartons and “clamshells,” the ordinance says. Another prohibited item are coolers not wholly encapsulated by another material, the city release says.
Food providers may choose any non-expanded polystyrene product to replace the banned ones, according to the city. Some restaurants, for instance, already use aluminum and plastic containers.
A one-year exemption is available for any food provider who believes it will experience financial hardship or other difficulties due to the ban. Providers can apply to the city for the exemption.
Brandon Kaysen, Ventura’s environmental supervisor, said Thursday the city’s environmental sustainability division will work with providers who choose the exemption to try to get them into compliance.
“But if a restaurant or business is unwilling to work with us after a year,” city code enforcement could issue the provider a written warning and the business could ultimately be administratively fined, he said.
“But we don’t really have any intention to fine our restaurants and businesses,” Kaysen said.
At least some Ventura food providers are taking the looming ban in stride.
“We actually got rid of all of our Styrofoam products about a year ago,” said Brett Hyatt, the general manager of Yolanda’s Mexican restaurant in Ventura. “So, this doesn’t affect us too, too much.”
He said the restaurant now uses aluminum or plastic containers with plastic lids for its take-out orders.
Yolanda’s stopped using expanded polystyrene products largely for presentation reasons, Hyatt said.
“For a lot of our products, it didn’t hold up real well,” he said. “We have pretty large takeout orders and it’s not quite as sturdy and doesn’t package as well. So just a combination of all those factors.”
Sam Lee, assistant manager at Masa Sushi in Ventura, said he wasn’t aware of the pending ban, noting the restaurant uses Styrofoam containers for take-out orders.
“I think it sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?” he said.
Lee said he didn’t know what the restaurant will use to package to-go orders once the ban goes into effect.
“That’s the owner’s decision,” he said.
Starting in 2022, Thousand Oaks retailers will be banned from using or selling single-use disposable plastic products, including Styrofoam, under an ordinance adopted by the City Council in October.
Ojai enacted its ban in 2014.
For more information on Ventura’s ban, including resources to help businesses comply with the ordinance and to apply for the one-year exemption, go to cityofventura.ca.gov/EPSBan or email the city at [email protected]
Mike Harris covers the cities of Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Ventura, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at [email protected] or 805-437-0323.
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