Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Council tables Styrofoam ban

BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

Santa Barbara will likely not ban Styrofoam products for take-out food containers until a functioning composting program is in place.
City leaders heard a presentation on the merits of such a ban Tuesday evening and seemed in agreement that while expanded polystyrene, or Styrofoam, is bad for the environment and landfills, banning the product at this point would make the situation worse.

“We don’t have the mechanism to dispose of them without contaminating the rest of the recycling stream,” Councilmember Helene Schneider said.
The biggest issue is a lack of suitable alternatives, or at least those that can be processed appropriately by current city recycling programs. City recycling coordinator Eric Lohela ran through a list of positive and negative aspects to a variety of materials.
Paper is recyclable when clean and not coated with petroleum — as many food containers made of paper are — but is resource-intensive to produce, he said. Plastic, while recyclable, is made from petroleum, releases greenhouse gases during production, and has to be clean and empty when recycled.
Aluminum, while also recyclable, is the most resource-intensive material to produce, sending off significant greenhouse gases, Lohela said, and also must be clean and empty to be processed.
Compostable products, the most positive option other than reusable containers, are renewable and can be turned into a valuable fertilizer. However, they also create gases during production and are resource-intensive. But the big issue lies in the fact that the city doesn’t have an appropriate composting program in place.
“Landfills are the worst place to compost,” Lohela said, explaining that when packed together with little air, compostable products produce methane, which is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of environmental impact.
“We’re actually creating a worse problem,” he said. “…I would rather you use plastic until we have a recycling stream, unless you can compost it yourself.”
In analyzing the city’s environmental services division and its strategic plan on the solid waste front earlier in the evening, city staff said the plan is to have a composting program in place by the end of 2009, placing a potential ban on Styrofoam somewhere in the late 2010 timeframe.
“Banning is the right thing to do, and it is feasible,” Lohela said. “But only if we have a recyclable composting program in place.”
Councilmember Grant House lauded the relative speed at which the composting program and a potential ban on Styrofoam is progressing.
“This isn’t some pie-in-the-sky, faraway thing,” he said.

1 comment:

theaverageman said...

What about the Earth Shell? I remember hearing about a local company that was developing a styrofoam alternative that was completely bio-degradable. Anybody know if that's hit the market?