California Moves to Ban Styrofoam State-Wide

Editor’s Note:  This article appears in the June 7th Triple Pundit newsletter.  One has to wonder if this type of legislative remedy could spur the growth of reusable packaging solutions in the future.  Could a ban on styrofoam have a real impact on transport packaging?  This certainly bears watching.

By Scott Cooney

With over 35M people and two centers (Hollywood and Silicon Valley) that are unrivaled in their industries, California is a goliath economic engine. Unwieldy and politically challenged (mainly due to the state’s love of direct democracy allowing people to vote on state laws), the state never ceases to amaze in terms of the progressive legislation it’s able to pass – not to mention the effect the largest state has on policy nationwide and globally. For instance, vehicle emissions standards on the Federal level have taken a monumental leap forward because of clean air legislation passed by the state decades ago.

After San Francisco banned styrofoam in 2007, over 50 other municipalities in the state of California followed suit, and now, the entire state is poised to make it official–35M+ people will now get their take-out food in containers made from reusable or renewable materials as opposed to the lightweight plastic known as expanded polystyrene. The shift this law (beginning January 1, 2014) will have on the take-out industry as a whole is hard to fathom…it’s realistically the beginning of the end for styrofoam.

The usual suspects chimed in in defense of styrofoam, with the right-leaning California Chamber of Commerce citing it as a “job killer”, following the lead of Republicans in the U.S. Congress who fought to bring styrofoam back after it was banned from dining halls. But how could this actually “kill” jobs? How does replacing one product with another have a negative net impact on total jobs?

In fact, the bill could be an incredible boon to businesses that have been producing better take-out containers, potentially driving the creation of thousands of green collar jobs…and the replacement of thousands of jobs where workers work in chemical factories where chronic exposure to chemical ingredients can seriously curtail health and life expectancy. The legacy that styrofoam leaves is unmistakable. With the pacific gyre growing daily and the cleanup efforts around the world for non-biodegradable products like styrofoam that wash up on beaches, in rivers, and on streets, isn’t the true cost of styrofoam much higher than the cost people pay for it?

And when will silly arguments like this “job killer” claim stop having appeal to a certain demographic that consistently votes against progress?