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Encinitas styrofoam ban unwelcomed

"The solution is more trash cans on the beach.”

Steve Amster
Steve Amster

Steve Amster is fighting Encinitas city hall again. In his 30 years as owner of Garden State Bagels, he has won, and lost, several battles over sign ordinances and sheriff’s department traffic enforcement. This time he and five other small restaurant owners are challenging the city’s proposed ban on styrofoam (a.k.a. polystyrene) containers and cups.

Amster appeared with other small restaurant owners at a recent meeting of Encinitas’ Environmental Commission, stating the ban is unneeded and unwelcomed.

“Our customers want their food in containers that keep it fresh and warm,” he told the Reader on October 1st. “Any other alternative containers, like paper, won’t work. Food will get soggy and cold."

Amster said his styrofoam containers cost is about one third less than any alternative. The average cost for Amster’s containers for his lox or pizza bagels is about ten cents. Amster uses thousands of containers and coffee cups a year. “Our customer’s cost will go up,” he said.

Supporters of the ban reportedly stated at the meeting that styrofoam hurts the environment, winding up in the ocean. “So does the oil from the car you drove here in,” Amster says he told the group at the meeting. “Let’s stop driving cars,” Amster suggested.

“We all love the ocean and want to protect it. The solution is more trash cans on the beach,” Amster said. “But that would make the city workers have to work harder,” he sarcastically added.

Amster says he also told the commission that paper cups from Starbucks are harder on the environment. “They are coated in wax and take longer to decompose,” he said.

But the kicker, according to Amster, is that styrofoam is totally recyclable. “It’s used in wall insulation and to make interior molding.”

EDCO, the city’s contracted waste-disposal company, agrees. As of about a month ago, EDCO starting advising its Encinitas customers that it would accept clean styrofoam containers in its residential curbside recycling trashcans. Encinitas becomes the 65th California town to do so. (However there is no cash recycling value for turning in large quantities of polystyrene products.)

Amster believes the current city council makes “radical decisions” without researching issues well enough.

“If they are going to ban styrofoam, I want all styrofoam banned. The supermarkets shouldn’t be able to sell meat and chicken in styrofoam, and UPS and FedEx shouldn’t be able to deliver packages with styrofoam peanuts,” Amster said.

The meat-department manager at a North County Vons store said he knows of no other material his industry can use to sell meat, fish, and chicken, other than in their styrofoam trays.

The city’s Environmental Commission will reconsider the proposed ban at its next meeting on October 8. The city council is scheduled to have the first reading of the regulation at its October 14 meeting. If approved, the ban would go into effect in 2016.

San Diego Coastkeeper reports that there is a bill in the California legislature that will ban styrofoam in the state. So far, only San Luis Obispo has passed such a ordinance. Reportedly, Solana Beach is racing Encinitas to be the first city in San Diego County to ban polystyrene products.

On September 22nd, the New York Supreme Court overturned a New York City ban on styrofoam containers.

(corrected 10/2, 8:35 a.m.)

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Steve Amster
Steve Amster

Steve Amster is fighting Encinitas city hall again. In his 30 years as owner of Garden State Bagels, he has won, and lost, several battles over sign ordinances and sheriff’s department traffic enforcement. This time he and five other small restaurant owners are challenging the city’s proposed ban on styrofoam (a.k.a. polystyrene) containers and cups.

Amster appeared with other small restaurant owners at a recent meeting of Encinitas’ Environmental Commission, stating the ban is unneeded and unwelcomed.

“Our customers want their food in containers that keep it fresh and warm,” he told the Reader on October 1st. “Any other alternative containers, like paper, won’t work. Food will get soggy and cold."

Amster said his styrofoam containers cost is about one third less than any alternative. The average cost for Amster’s containers for his lox or pizza bagels is about ten cents. Amster uses thousands of containers and coffee cups a year. “Our customer’s cost will go up,” he said.

Supporters of the ban reportedly stated at the meeting that styrofoam hurts the environment, winding up in the ocean. “So does the oil from the car you drove here in,” Amster says he told the group at the meeting. “Let’s stop driving cars,” Amster suggested.

“We all love the ocean and want to protect it. The solution is more trash cans on the beach,” Amster said. “But that would make the city workers have to work harder,” he sarcastically added.

Amster says he also told the commission that paper cups from Starbucks are harder on the environment. “They are coated in wax and take longer to decompose,” he said.

But the kicker, according to Amster, is that styrofoam is totally recyclable. “It’s used in wall insulation and to make interior molding.”

EDCO, the city’s contracted waste-disposal company, agrees. As of about a month ago, EDCO starting advising its Encinitas customers that it would accept clean styrofoam containers in its residential curbside recycling trashcans. Encinitas becomes the 65th California town to do so. (However there is no cash recycling value for turning in large quantities of polystyrene products.)

Amster believes the current city council makes “radical decisions” without researching issues well enough.

“If they are going to ban styrofoam, I want all styrofoam banned. The supermarkets shouldn’t be able to sell meat and chicken in styrofoam, and UPS and FedEx shouldn’t be able to deliver packages with styrofoam peanuts,” Amster said.

The meat-department manager at a North County Vons store said he knows of no other material his industry can use to sell meat, fish, and chicken, other than in their styrofoam trays.

The city’s Environmental Commission will reconsider the proposed ban at its next meeting on October 8. The city council is scheduled to have the first reading of the regulation at its October 14 meeting. If approved, the ban would go into effect in 2016.

San Diego Coastkeeper reports that there is a bill in the California legislature that will ban styrofoam in the state. So far, only San Luis Obispo has passed such a ordinance. Reportedly, Solana Beach is racing Encinitas to be the first city in San Diego County to ban polystyrene products.

On September 22nd, the New York Supreme Court overturned a New York City ban on styrofoam containers.

(corrected 10/2, 8:35 a.m.)

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Comments
9

Wax covered paper cups are a problem, but they decompose. Styrofoam doesn't.

And the answer to the problem is not more trash cans, because a lot of people are pigs, and won't put their trash into a can no matter what. Enforcing litter laws would be nice, but no city can or will pay for adequate enforcement. Styrofoam is a big problem, and the only solution is to ban it.

In spite of the biased "expert" opinions offered here, there are perfectly good alternative ways to store deli sandwiches and french fries. Mr. Amster should be a responsible business owner and put a little bit of effort into doing his part to protect his beach environment, rather than being-- or at least happily enabling-- the problem.

Oct. 2, 2015

So everyone should suffer because a few people might do something bad? The heart of the liberal ethos right there.

Oct. 2, 2015

In the past several days, there has been an video with news article on newsfeeds about a scientist discovering that meal worms (larva of a moth) can digest Styrofoam.

As someone who is generally not in favor of Styrofoam, I'd say this is a plus. But--who knows how long it will take to actually use this information to break down all the Styrofoam out there. Perhaps the companies that make the stuff can be induced to pitch in?

http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/innovation/styrofoam-eating-mealworms-could-happily-dispose-plastic-waste-n435901?cid=sm_fb

Oct. 2, 2015

Good point eastlaker. Here's more on the subject:

http://cen.acs.org/articles/93/web/2015/09/Mealworms-Munch-Polystyrene-Foam.html

... and some discussion on the subject at:

http://science.slashdot.org/story/15/10/01/0327201/foam-eating-worms-may-offer-solution-to-mounting-waste

It might be nice to share this information with Mr. Amster and interested parties, but as usual there are no links to anyplace outside the Reader.

Oct. 2, 2015

While the nanny state of Encinitas is at it, why not also ban disposable diapers. They take over 500 years to decompose and they consume far more space than a styrofoam cup.

Oct. 3, 2015

More than anything I'm amazed these guys think styrofoam is worth fighting to keep. Mr. Amster, I guarantee your customers will not complain when you stop using styrofoam, which has zero magical powers to keep pizza bagels fresh or dry. In the meantime, you've already lost customers who refuse to eat at places that use it. Is protecting your "right" to use polystyrene really worth risking your business's reputation?

Oct. 4, 2015

I have to agree. If the material had such great insulation properties, all coffee places would insist on using it.

I know many people who boycott (avoid and do not patronize) establishments that use styrofoam as take out or "doggy bag" containers. Cardboard is good enough.

Oct. 4, 2015

Yeah, everyone uses Styrofoam because they hate the environment and want their food to be poisoned.

Nobody is going out of business because of your huffing and puffing. Styrofoam WORKS. That's why it's used. And what will cost business is moving away from something that works to something that doesn't. When there's a real alternative, business owners will flock to it, and Styrofoam will die, and nobody will care. But you cannot get rid of something that works (Styrofoam, cars, oil, whatever) until there's a REAL alternative. And there isn't.

Oct. 4, 2015

I don't think you will lose that many customers Mr. Amster. I hate eating off styrofoam! And you might gain many more customers back if you started making real bagels instead of those bright, white, puffy things you are making now.

Oct. 8, 2015

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