Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) Recommendation to the Los Altos Environmental Commission Mike Barnes November 14, 2011
Our mission is to educate and inspire the people of Los Altos and Los Altos Hills to take action that will make our communities more environmentally healthy and vibrant today and for future generations.
Styrofoam®vs EPS Styrofoam®is registered trademark of Dow Chemical Co: Extruded process with polystyrene Used in thermal insulation applications Not used as food container Expanded polystyrene – food containers Injection molding process with different form of polystyrene
Issues with Expanded Polystyrene Highly toxic production process, ranked #5 EPA (Benzene is carcinogen; Styrene suspected carcinogen/ neurotoxin) Blowing agent (HCFC-22) degrades ozone layer Energy intensive manufacturing process (Compostable plate requires 66% less energy to manufacture) Less than 1% EPS product recycled in California Clean Water Action California www.cleanwateraction.org/ca Californians Against Waste www.cawrecycles.org
What’s Wrong with Expanded Polystyrene Food Containers? • Short useful life • Commonly littered • Doesn’t decompose • Cannot be recycled • Breaks into many, many small pieces, making it difficult and costly to clean up – the State and cities spend millions to clean up from highways, storm systems and beaches • Small pieces get airborne and foul storm drains, then creeks, then the Bay, then the Pacific • Marine animals mistake small pieces for food
State of Local Actions • 45 California city and county jurisdictions have banned EPS containers for take-out packaging • 12 other jurisdictions have banned EPS containers at government facilities / functions, including San Jose • In the extended Bay Area, full bans in place: • Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Burlingame • Capitola, Carmel, Emeryville, Fairfax • Foster City, Fremont, Half Moon Bay, Hayward • Hercules, Livermore, Marin County, Millbrae • Mill Valley, Monterey City & County, Oakland • Pacific Grove, Pacifica, Palo Alto, Pittsburg • Richmond, Salinas, San Bruno, San Francisco • San Leandro, Santa Cruz, Sausalito, Scotts Valley • Seaside, South San Francisco, Watsonville
More Action Likely • Santa Clara County Water District adopted resolution to ban EPS foam service ware at district facilities and events (press release October 26, 2011) • Cited reduction of foam liter in San Francisco of 36% after ban • Cited reduction of foam liter in Santa Cruz Cty of 61% after ban • EPS foam comprises 15% of storm drain liter • Encouraging cities and county to adopt similar ban • Santa Clara County Supervisors considered the issue in October 25th session and referred to staff • City of San Jose ‘Green to Go’ initiative in public hearing phase with emphasis on cost of foam clean-up
Alternatives to EPS Food Containers • Compostable containers and utensils • Containers manufactured with bagasse (sugar cane stalks) or wheat stalks • Cold product containers manufactured with a corn based resin (PLA) • Liquid containers made from wood pulp with PLA lining • Utensils made from corn based resin (PLA) • Recyclable plastics • Benefits of these alternatives: • Reusable – always preferred to land fill option • Does not break into small pieces to litter roads and streams • Does not break down in marine environment
GreenTown Los Altos Co-op A Unique Opportunity
GreenTown Los Altos Co-op Goal To help small businesses in Los Altos – initially restaurants – switch to environmentally preferable food containers for take-out and take-home at affordable prices
QuickHistory • About 1 year of data gathering and business model evaluations • Signed agreement with World Centric in 2010 to provide extensive line of compostable products at 25% discount from list • See product line at www.worldcentric.org • Over 100 products in catalog
How Does it Work? • Order online (just like Amazon) • Select product and load cart • Select shipping method from San Leandro WH • Provide credit card and shipping address • Orders shipped via UPS or local hauler within 2 days
Cost Comparison • EPS foam is cheapest product available for carry-out • 6” by 6” clamshell costs $0.043 to $0.063 / unit • 9” by 9” clamshell costs $0.084 to $0.182 / unit • 5-compartment tray costs $0.04 / unit • Compostable containers from GreenTown Los Altos Co-op are priced competitively • 6” by 6” clamshell costs $0.091 / unit • 9” by 9” clamshell costs $0.19 / unit • 5-compartment tray costs $0.08 / unit • Compostable containers are: • A few cents more per carry-out meal • A miniscule additional cost as % of total meal cost
Conclusion It is time for Los Altos to join the 45 jurisdictions in California that have acted to ban food vendors from providing prepared food in disposable food containers made from expanded polystyrene.