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Council: No ban on Styrofoam

H.B. council votes 4 to 3 to permit its continued use in food sales despite concerns about the environment and human health.

January 22, 2014|By Anthony Clark Carpio | This post has been corrected, as noted below.
  • A small Styrofoam cup is discarded along Beach Boulevard, just south of Slater Avenue, in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
A small Styrofoam cup is discarded along Beach Boulevard,… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

The Huntington Beach City Council will not ban polystyrene food packaging from the city.

The proposal, first raised in October, failed Tuesday on a 4-3 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw and Councilwomen Connie Boardman and Jill Hardy voted for the ban.

Dozens of people flooded the council chambers to voice their opinions on the controversial proposed ordinance, which would have barred restaurants from using white food containers, plates and cups made out of expanded polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam.

Supporters of the ban said the product is harmful to the environment and a health hazard to animals and humans. Those against it, mainly business owners, argued that switching over to an environmentally friendlier alternative would cut into their profits.

Councilmen Dave Sullivan and Jim Katapodis said small businesses are still working their way out of the recession.

Sullivan said such a ban "would be a slap in the face."

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"It's just hard for me, with all the restaurant people that I've talked to, to support the ban on Styrofoam," Katapodis said. "I agree with council member Sullivan. People are just climbing back into making a little bit of a profit, and I don't know if the timing is right for this thing."

Mayor Matthew Harper, who has opposed a ban since the idea was first raised, had the same concerns regarding the ban on plastic bags, which was approved last year.

He wanted to know how the city would gauge the efficacy of a prohibition and worried that the city would be falling into a habit of banning various products.

"Is this the missing piece? Is this the end?" Harper said. "Or is this just yet another step to yet another ban and other ban and other ban after that.…What is this going to lead to?"

He added that the proposed ordinance would be another example of "government manipulation" and taking away freedom.

Hardy, like many others who supported the ban, said she is more than happy to pay extra for a meal served or packaged in something other than polystyrene because of health issues that some suspect are related to the product.

"Twenty cents on my meal is not worth whatever toxins are in our ecosystem," she said. "I'm willing to pay that 20 cents, 50 cents, whatever it is, over and over and over, because it's a lot cheaper than the medical bills I'll probably be facing."

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