Long Beach, CA Votes Unanimously to Ban Foam in Food Service

City council in Long Beach, California, USA voted last week unanimously to ban polystyrene (commonly known as Styrofoam) in restaurants. The vote was part of year’s-long process that will ban the use of polystyrene in restaurants or in other retail settings where ready-to-eat food is sold within the city, including food trucks.

Long Beach joins more than 100 other cities in California that regulate the use of the polystyrene to package food.

Polystyrene is an environmental pollutant and non-biodegradable substance commonly used as disposable foodservice cups, plates, and containers. Since polystyrene breaks into tiny pieces over time, it is now considered a main component of marine debris on beaches across the world. 

"Foam containers get battered as they move through the storm drain system, the smaller bits slipping through filters into the ocean," writes Mariel Garza in the Los Angeles Times. "Unlike a littered plastic bag, which may fill with water and sink to the bottom of the sea, plastic foam is buoyant and breaks down into smaller and smaller bite-sized pieces. Also, plastic foam can absorb other chemicals present in the ocean. This poses a danger to marine life and sea birds that eat the 'microplastic' pieces in the water and on the shore, along with whatever pollutants they contain. It also poses a health risk to humans, as plastic has been found in the bodies of fish and shellfish caught for human consumption."

According to PPC member organization 5 Gyres, Americans alone use more than 25 billion foam cups each year. Polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam are plastics made from styrene, a known animal carcinogen that was found "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen" by the National Toxicology Program and "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and was listed as a carcinogen under California's Proposition 65 in 2016. 

Photo by 5 Gyres. Visit 5 Gyres #FoamFree Guide to learn more. 

Learn how to start a polystyrene ban in your town.