Polystyrene Ban Update

On Monday, May 9, 2016, the Pasadena City Council unanimously voted to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that will ban most single-use polystyrene in the City of Pasadena. So what does this mean? Once the ordinance is drafted, then it has to be read publically. Then Council votes again. Based on their comments on May 8, we should have no trouble getting the final draft of the ordinance passed. Two members of Council even asked if the ordinance could be stronger than the one staff presented! Anyone who has ever participated in a beach cleanup or the cleanup at Peck Park knows how pernicious polystyrene is once it’s in the environment. So this is wonderful news for birds!

The ordinance bans the use of polystyrene take-out containers, including clam shells and cups. These items will no longer be available at restaurants or events at the Rose Bowl and other Pasadena venues. Even better, no stores in Pasadena will be allowed to sell these items, and better yet, they will also not be allowed to sell polystyrene ice chests, unless they are encapsulated in hard plastic.

Many small businesses are concerned about the extra cost of take-out containers that are not made from polystyrene. These other containers can cost the same as polystyrene or as much as ten cents more, depending on the container. Though many speakers at the City Council meeting assured these restaurant owners that we’d be happy to pay the extra dime, many of the owners said their customers couldn’t pay it. So we have some work to do as a community to help these folks not go out of business. By the way, there has not been one documented case of a restaurant going out of business because of a polystyrene ban. The first such ban in California was in 1988 in Berkeley.

While this is a very welcome step in Pasadena’s journey toward sustainability, we still have miles to go before we sleep. And Council seems to be aware of this. For instance, some councilmembers are eager to promote a “bring your own container” program that encourages restaurants and patrons to eschew the use of single-use takeout containers altogether. This would be best of all!

Many thanks to those of you who signed letters and/or the petition and emailed City Council. You joined a dedicated army of folks who worked very hard to make this happen. The birds thank you!