‘No’ to Foam?

Eagle Rock Leaders Take Steps Toward Styrofoam Ban

Styrofoam+containers+such+as+this+one+are+popular+for+take-out+food+but+they+can+also+create+environmental+hazards.

George Garcia

Styrofoam containers such as this one are popular for take-out food but they can also create environmental hazards.

George Garcia, Community News Reporter

The ban on polystyrene, commonly known as styrofoam, has made its way to Eagle Rock.

In a unanimous vote earlier this month, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council supported a motion by Los Angeles city councilmembers Paul Koretz and Bob Blumenfield to take steps toward banning polystyrene containers from the city by 2021. Specifically, the motion would have the Bureau of Sanitation report on the feasibility of banning polystyrene products.

Styrofoam, synonymous with white egg carton boxes and shiny clamshell containers at your favorite take-out spots, is the third most commonly found pollutant to our local beaches through our street drains, according to Heal The Bay, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. The organization also noted that in the past 18 years, volunteers have removed more than 736,000 pieces of foam from our beaches.  

What’s more, styrene — a main ingredient in polystyrene — is considered “a likely carcinogen” and polystyrene “contains Benzene which has been linked to cancer in leukemia,” according to the city council members’ motion, which cites research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program. “Several studies have shown that styrene can leach into food and drink,” the motion adds.

The feasibility of banning this material in Los Angeles will rely on the report constructed by the LA Sanitation department. In 2011, a Los Angeles County report  concluded that “viable alternatives to EPS [Expanded Polystyrene] food packaging existed, and that an EPS food container ban was feasible.” But action was not taken at that point.

According to Josh Ashton, a sustainability committee member for Eagle Rock’s neighborhood council, “This seems very feasible: 120 cities such as Santa Monica and Culver City have completed something similar to this.” A feasibility report can take anywhere from 180 days to a full year depending on the research, according to city reports.

If it’s ultimately approved, the ban could hurt some local businesses.

“This can present a problem to the authenticity of the food we serve,” said Armando Pariasca, manager of Eagle Rock Peruvian Restaurant on Colorado Boulevard. Certain traditional plates benefit from styrofoam containers, which help maintain the spices and savoriness of the food, he added.

Pariasca worries that by “substituting these [styrofoam] containers,” costs will increase as restaurants attempt to look for the “right type of containers.” That said, his restaurant is environmentally conscious by “using paper bags, straws on requests, and reusable kitchenware,” he added.

Regardless of the outcome, we’ll “figure it out, this restaurant has, for 20 years,” he said.

Down the street, Piencone, a local pizzeria and gelato restaurant, has apparently stayed ahead of the game by using biodegradable products. 

“Our business model is to take care of the environment,” said Diego Mendoza, a Piencone staff member. “As far as our to-go materials we use paper bags, cardboard boxes — all biodegradable.” In his three months on the job, he believes Piencone will excel regardless of the ban simply because “we have set the standards, and we’re being proactive.”

Employees of some other businesses in Eagle Rock declined to comment on the record due to fear of backlash from customers. For instance, one said: “I’m all for the planet and I get that, but businesses also need to survive.” 

But Eagle Rock leaders say alternatives to foam have gotten cheaper.

“Businesses claim that it will be more expensive but there’s biodegradable options available very close to what businesses pay now,” Jane Demian, who leads the sustainability committee, said in an email.

Eagle Rock neighborhood residents who want to participate in a sustainability survey can request one by emailing [email protected].

 

 

 

 

Community News reporters are enrolled in JOUR 3910 – University Times. They produce stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]