City Moves to Ban Polystyrene

Zero waste sent to landfills by 2020 is the goal of the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Ed Lee. As of January 1, 2017, the sale of food service ware and packing materials made from polystyrene foam is prohibited. So, in other words, no more hazardous styrofoam.

Unlike harder plastics, polystyrene contains a chemical used in the production process called "styrene" which will metabolize if ingested. The food chains contamination trickles to humans who consume contaminated marine wildlife”

The city unanimously passed an ordinance banning the sale or distribution of any product made in whole or in part, from polystyrene, a plastic-based petroleum compound with a high carbon dioxide footprint. The existence of polystyrene is dependent on the burning of fossil fuels.

The ordinance also requires that packing materials and disposable food ware sold or distributed must be accepted as compostable or recyclable in the City's collection programs.

In San Francisco, over half of what still goes in the landfill bins can be recycled in the blue bin or composted in the green bin. When all material is sent to the correct bins, San Francisco's diversion rate can increase from 80 percent to 90 percent.

San Francisco's ordinance is now the most expansive ban on polystyrene in the country. Over 97 Californian cities and counties, including 20 cities in the Bay Area, have banned its use. San Francisco has already set a North American record for recycling and composting."

"I applaud Recology, the Department of Environment and San Franciscans for reaching this record milestone of 80 percent diversion," said Mayor Lee in a news release.

By restricting the use of polystyrene foam and requiring it to be replaced with less-hazardous, compostable, or readily recyclable products, the public health and safety of San Francisco's residents, natural environment, waterways and wildlife will be further protected.

Products made of polystyrene include disposable cups, plates, beach and pool toys, egg cartons, packing materials like peanuts, to-go containers, day-use coolers, foam dock floats and mooring buoys.

Effective July 1, 2017, polystyrene trays used in meat and fish packaging will be banned.

Recycling creates ten times as many jobs as sending material to landfill, According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In the US Study from Blue Green Alliance, if all cities in the United States recycled and composted like San Francisco it would create 2.3 million jobs.

"Recycling and composting is not only good for our environment, it is also good for our economy," said Mayor Lee. "Recycling alone creates 10 times more jobs than simply sending refuse to the landfill."

San Francisco's ordinance is now the most expansive ban on polystyrene in the country. Over 97 Californian cities and counties, including 20 cities in the Bay Area, have banned its use. San Francisco has already set a North American record for recycling and composting.

Berkeley was the first to ban polystyrene in 1988. And since 2007, San Francisco has prohibited its use in all to-go food containers.

More than 100 U.S. cities have ordinances restricting the use of materials containing polystyrene.

Global plastic production has increased 20-fold since 1964 and production is expected to triple again by 2050.

Our consumption habits have consequences. 86 percent of plastic packaging is single use only, representing over $80 billion in lost value annually, according to the Clean Water Action organization.

Packaging and single use disposable products are ubiquitous in marine debris and represent an unsustainable use of precious resources like oil, trees and water.

The Regional Water Control Board has recognized product bans as an effective way to prevent trash pollution in our waterways.

Because it doesn't break down in a human time scale, polystyrene can persist for hundreds and thousands of years, compromising the soil, water and air. It breaks down into thousands of tiny non-biodegradable pieces, polluting waterways and littering landscapes.

Though it never completely breaks down in landfills, polystyrene can decompose in the oceans. It eventually sinks making it difficult to know how much of it exists.

Polystyrene foam, often broken down into smaller pieces, is one of the most commonly found plastic items on beaches and inland creeks, making it more challenging to recover.

Animal life is jeopardized when polystyrene is ingested. In addition to sickness and death, birds, turtles and fish expel an increased toxicity in the food chain. Smaller pieces are often mistaken for fish eggs by seabirds and other marine life.

Unlike harder plastics, polystyrene contains a chemical used in the production process called "styrene" which will metabolize if ingested. The food chains contamination trickles to humans who consume contaminated marine wildlife.

San Francisco is reducing its carbon footprint with progresses in recycling and composting awareness. However, while landfill disposal is at the lowest level on record, and has been reduced by half over the last decade, San Francisco still sends 444,000 tons of material to the landfill each year.

Polystyrene foam packaging and food service ware cannot be recycled through San Francisco's blue bin recycling collection program because of its ability to break into small pieces too difficult to handle. Polystyrene foam is not compostable and is otherwise uneconomical or impossible to recycle, especially if food-soiled.

Considering it is made of 95 percent air, only an estimated one percent of all polystyrene foam is recycled in California because of food contamination and the material's bulky, easily airborne characteristics. Recycled polystyrene has very little market value and can only be used to make a small range of products, most of which cannot be recycled themselves.

Since 2006, San Francisco has reduced trash to landfill by half and the City has earned positive attention on the national stage for its innovative and ambitious waste initiatives.

Zero waste means sending zero discards to the landfill or high-temperature destruction. Instead, products are designed and used according to the principle of highest and best use.

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as valuing all discarded materials as resources that should not be burned or buried. The goal is zero air, water and land emissions.

To achieve 100 percent zero waste, San Francisco Department of Environment will continue to advocate for state legislation and partner with producers to develop a producer responsibility system. The mission is for producers to design better products and take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of a product, including take-back and recycling.

The City and County of San Francisco believes achieving zero waste is possible. SF Department of Environment will continue to promote best practices, including waste prevention, recycling and composting.

"Innovative policies, financial incentives, as well as outreach and education are all effective tools in our toolbox that have helped San Francisco," said San Francisco Department of Environment Director Melanie Nutter.

Tony Taylor is a local reporter.

February 2017

GARBAGE RATES INCREASING

Our monopoly trash pick-up company, Recology, is attempting to increase rates that would for the first time impose fees on the recycling bins. If you have not already received a notice in the mail about this, you will soon.

This proposed rate increase seems completely counter intuitive to the City’s overall plan to reduce waste being dumped into landfill. They are proposing a charge of $2.00 per month for each 32 gallon blue bin you have, and $4.00 for each 64 gallon bin. Another $2.00 for each 32 gallon green bin you use, and $4.00 for each 64 gallon bin. They also want a $5.00 “fixed charge.” They are proposing these increases to, “pay for possible physical improvements to the garbage transfer station.” They state that this will be a 21.51% or $6.60 per month for residential customers. I don’t see the math adding up correctly.

They state that if they receive enough negative feedback, the rate increase will not go through. In the increase notice it states, “THE RATES WILL NOT GO INTO EFFECT IF WRITTEN PROTESTS ARE RECEIVED FROM A MAJORITY OF THE EFFECTED CUSTOMERS”

Recology already makes a mint from our monthly pick-up charges, as well as from the cans/bottles that we place in the blue bins. They separate these items and sell them on the commercial recycling market for even more profit. With these additional charges, why bother to recycle?

ACTION: They state that if they receive enough negative feedback, the rate increase will not go through. In the increase notice it states, “THE RATES WILL NOT GO INTO EFFECT IF WRITTEN PROTESTS ARE RECEIVED FROM A MAJORITY OF THE EFFECTED CUSTOMERS”

To protest, you must send a letter only [no emails or faxes, phone calls] to:

Refuse Collection Rate Hearing Officer

c/o Dept. of Public Works room 348

City Hall, SF 94102

You must follow these rules exactly to the “t” to get your input considered:

1. Address the letter exactly as stated above.

2. List your home address in the letter or your Recology acct. number.

3. HAND SIGN your letter. They must have an original signature.

4. Send ASAP as closing date for comments is May 30, 2013.

5. State clearly that you oppose the rate increase. You must state this clearly.

If you fail to do any of these 4 steps exactly as they demand, your letter will be discarded.

Please take the few moments it will take to send your letter, to help prevent this proposed increase. Sample:

“Dear Rate Officer. I live at 000 Teresita and I strongly oppose the proposed Recology rate increase.

Yours,

Joe Blow [HAND ORIGINAL SIGNATURE]”

Gary Noguera is a long time resident of Miraloma Park, served on its Board, as well as being a past president of CSFN

May 2013