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Should Polystyrene be Banned in Novato?

About 60 communities in California that have instituted a polystyrene ban. Should Novato follow suit? What are your thoughts?

Maybe your first question is, “what is polystyrene?” Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is a foam product that is frequently mistaken as Styrofoam and is most commonly used as food and beverage containers such as bowls, trays, cartons, cups and clamshell/hinged containers.  Polystyrene can take up to 500 years or more to naturally decompose.

At our council meeting on Tuesday night, several students from the Youth Leadership Institute addressed the council during our quarterly agenda setting meeting to ask us if we would consider a ban similar to that of San Rafael, Mill Valley, Sausalito, Fairfax and the County of Marin.  In fact, about 60 communities in the state have instituted similar bans.

The students are to be commended for their advocacy on this issue and did an excellent job during public comment by requesting that we put the item on a future agenda.  The council agreed, and will be discussing the topic in the next few months.

What are your thoughts with regards to a ban?  Should Novato adopt an ordinance and if so, how much time should merchants be given before the ban goes into effect?  Are there certain polystyrene uses that should be specifically included or excluded?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John Stewart January 31, 2013 at 05:25 AM
eric thank you for getting involved and starting to initiate an idea on the city council. This is a safe issue for you. What about the latest arrest at Diablo and Center at the windovver Apartments? Can you make an ordinance for public safety first instead of polystyrene? The police chief stated on tv last night the alleged murder of the 19 year old in Oakland was a relative of a resident staying at windover. How about an ordinance to stop people from harboring criminals--the oakland police and u.s. marshalls were looking for the alleged shooter----or DO something to help with the problem. what are your solutions? thank you eric for your help and time john c. stewart
Michael Reyff January 31, 2013 at 06:10 AM
Eric: Are you serious about bringing this issue up as an issue? Given all of the other issues facing this city - this is the best you can do? When we met a number of months back, you stated that you were interested in pursuing issues that were truly important to the City of Novato. What happened to and increased crime and affordable housing? Your silence on real issues facing Novato has been deafening!
Norma Dawson January 31, 2013 at 06:34 AM
Stop shutting the guy down, at least he is engaging with the public and our often forgotten youth groups. Back on topic, recycle! So yes, I am in favor of the ban.
Craig Belfor January 31, 2013 at 02:46 PM
After the easy victory on this issue, then we can look at Jerome's suggestion that we take away the tax breaks for AH owners who do not follow federal law that prohibits felons and druggies from living in AH.
Robin Diederich January 31, 2013 at 03:53 PM
Mr. Lucan, thank you for your efforts to gather public opinion on an important topic. I wholeheartedly support a ban on polystyrene . Our environment affects all of us and caring for it yields both immediate and long term benefits. I have traveled to other communities where other products like paper are used in place of polystyrene and my food was just as delicious. I think that a timeline of one year would likely be reasonable, but input from area businesses affected by the ban should be consulted for their input. By the way, I am confident that you are capable of multitasking in your job as Novato City Councilman and can work on more than one issue at a time. Thank you for your service.
Ella January 31, 2013 at 04:40 PM
I am 100% in support of a ban on polystyrene. There are other, better options.
Maggie January 31, 2013 at 06:43 PM
I too support a ban on polystyrene. Everytime I ask for a to-go box at a Novato restaurant, I am shocked when they bring out a polystyrene box. It seems backwards and most other places I go are using either biodegradable boxes or the paper boxes,which are coated so probably still not ideal. But polystyrene is forever and it's not accepted by any facilities in Marin County! Get rid of it!
Susan Trumbull January 31, 2013 at 09:03 PM
I second Robin Diederick's post.....and Maggie. Both well said.
Emily January 31, 2013 at 09:13 PM
I am for a ban as well as a ban on plastic bags at grocery stores. It is high time people start bringing their own bags with them.
John Parnell January 31, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I don't mean to burst everyone's bubble, because I'm not a fan of polystyrene. However, my business wouldn't function without "packing peanuts". Not every business is able to pack its products with the ecofoam (corn starch peanuts), paper or bubble-wrap. Eric, are you talking about all polystyrene material, or just food containers? Maybe before going forward, you might want to talk to some manufacturers in Novato. I know that Novato recently lost most of Biomarin to San Rafael. It would be a shame to lose the rest of it, because they need to use polystyrene. Polystyrene is bad news, but don't we wanting to be attracting businesses to Novato, instead of pushing them out? However, if a ban on polystyrene will be the first step in getting Novato out of ABAG, then by all means.
Robert J. Cleek January 31, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Oh Eric, were you asleep in science class? Expanded polystyrene, it be cups, clamshell containers, large chunks in home electronics packaging, or the ubiquitous packing "peanuts," is especially easy to recycle at home. Even a kid can do it and most kids really enjoy doing it. A whole box of packing peanuts can be melted, like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, by just dropping them into a container of acetone, a common solvent ( the active ingredient in nail polish remover,) which can be purchased cheaply at any hardware store. It only takes about an ounce of acetone to dissolve a whole cardboard box full of packing peanuts, as these are about 98% air. What will be left is a soft plastic putty which can be molded into all sorts of useful plastic items. A whole cardboard box full of "peanuts" can be reduced to about a cubic inch of plastic putty. When the acetone fully evaporates from the styrene putty in a few days, the styrene will be a hard, dense plastic, which can be discarded in the trash if you lack the creativity to sculpt it into something artistic. This is also a pretty good science fair project for a ten year old. Better living through chemistry!
Eleanor Sluis January 31, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Reducing plastics increases one’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Costco provides boxes for customers not plastic, not paper bags. I do not know if it uses styrofoam. Whole Foods uses paper containers. Reducing the use of these items is an environmental issue in preventing the loss of human lives, animals and plants. It is an interconnecting thread that relates to the prevention of pollution and releasing particulates into the air. It reduces deaths from lung disease in children and adults. This thread of excess plastic use is detrimental to our oceans, lakes, rivers, creeks, babbling brooks, and water supply. Plastics and its off- gassing of particulates are in our food supply and in the land affecting animals and plants. Even the Redwood dump advocates for reducing particulates from plastics. This dump is only 50 feet from San Antonio waterway leading to Petaluma River, the bay, and Pacific Ocean. The smell from the decay and pollution is so bad that the water way is not conducive for boating or fishing. I want my grandchildren to be able to better function in an environment that promotes a healthier and happier existence, an environment that is the result of good stewardship of the planet. Reducing particulates and off-gassing by reducing the numbers of plastic bags is a good thing. Hooray for Marc Levine and for Eric Lucan in addressing timely problems of shorter life spans, and related health issues. Thank you
Cathy February 01, 2013 at 12:11 AM
None of the photos or the photo that accompanied Eric's inquiry are from Novato or even especially current. Did the council ask them where they had found it still in use and what response they got if they asked the merchant to stop using/selling it? I can't recall the last time I got some as takeout containers. Who in Novato is still using it? Are Safeway, COSTCO, ... still selling it for packaging or dinnerware? Perhaps the students could also approach our State Assembly Representative, Marc Levine about following up his legislation for a statewide plastic bag ban with another for polystyrene.
Eleanor Sluis February 01, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Reducing plastics increases one’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Costco provides boxes for customers not plastic, not paper bags. I do not know if it uses styrofoam. Whole Foods uses paper containers. Reducing the use of these items is an environmental issue in preventing the loss of human lives, animals and plants. It relates to the prevention of pollution from releasing particulates into the air. Prevention reduces deaths from lung disease in children and adults. Excess plastic use is detrimental to our oceans, lakes, rivers, creeks, babbling brooks and our water supply. Plastics and its off- gassing of particulates are in our food supply and in the land affecting animals and plants. Even the Redwood dump advocates for reducing particulates from plastics. This dump is only 50 feet from San Antonio waterway leading to Petaluma River, the bay, and Pacific Ocean. The smell from the decay and pollution is so bad that the water way is not conducive for boating or fishing. I want my grandchildren to be able to better function in an environment that promotes a healthier and happier existence, an environment that is the result of good stewardship of the planet. Reducing particulates and off-gassing by reducing the numbers of plastic bags is a good thing. Hooray for Marc Levine and for Eric Lucan in addressing timely problems of shorter life spans, death from pollutants and particulates, and related health issues. Thank you
Tina McMillan February 01, 2013 at 08:44 AM
Eric while I appreciate your bringing up the polystyrene issue as well as Marc Levine working on the plastic bag ban I have to admit with the draft housing element not yet approved for the 2007-2014 cycle and so much at stake with the attempt to reduce density for multifamily housing to the suburban level this article makes me wonder if you are focusing on feel good issues rather than substantive issues. Until we have final approval of the draft housing element I would hope that you would create a dialogue that speaks to the efforts to create balanced housing and a balanced budget. Finding new revenue sources by bringing businesses to Novato that can put sales tax money into city coffers would take the stress off of local residents that bear increased burdens of higher fees for permits, business licenses, and the increased sales tax for Measure F. How do you feel about the 20 unit per acre designation? Will you support the housing element that was submitted in October? Do you see Novato as having created affordable housing opportunities through Rotary, Eden House, Habitat for Humanity and other projects? How much do you focus on issues like these that affect our bottom line?
A.M. Barnard February 01, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Mr. Lucan, I want to THANK YOU for this interesting and informative post. I love how you are highlighting the appearance of several students from the Youth Leadership Institute. I am glad to see a locally elected leader singing the praises of our youth. One of the many challenges of being a city councilmember is recognizing that there are many issues requiring your attention, and I applaud you for not being singularly focused on any one. Bravo, and keep up the good work!
Eleanor Sluis February 01, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Yes, thank you to Eric Lucan and the teenagers who are willing to bring the overuse of plastics issues into the forefront of what is important. Small steps are being taken to inform the public so that when enough people see the complex relationship between the environmental, economical, and political forces they will be better able to make a more common sense decision. My concern is the off-gassing of particulates adding to health issues in children and adults causing pain, expensive remedies and early death. While I favor low-density housing, low traffic exhausts, and excellent schools, it is a breath of fresh air that young adults led by Eric Lucan are studying science, math and the fine arts in order to bring about a better environment. This so connects with the curriculum in schools. It is these young adults who will be better business minded in the future because of their interests in Novato’s environment. Go for it, Kids. Thanks to you and Eric Lucan.
Tina McMillan February 01, 2013 at 09:45 PM
Bob Who knew it was that simple! Where were you when my kids were young and this would have made me the coolest Mom on the block! Peter uses them when he packs books to mail. We recycle everything. I tend to believe that real change happens slowly because much of what we do, we do out of fear rather than reason. Are the corn starch packing peanuts any better or worse for the environment?
Susan Stompe February 03, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Thanks, Eric, for your interest in polystyrene. Please do support banning the use in Novato, as many other jurisdictions in the county have done. As mentioned by some others, please add single use plastic grocery bags as Marin County has done. I heve been involved in our local Earth Day litter clean ups since the early 80's. (This year Clean & Green Day is April 20) Plastics are the most pervasive parts of the litter. They are also the most damaging to the environment. Encourage the students and support the environment by pursuing this issue!

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