Students vs. corporate influence - Can students seeking styrofoam ban overcome Dart's Elk Grove contract, political contributions?

During the Wednesday, May 8 meeting of the Elk Grove City Council several environmentally minded students from Elk Grove high schools made a pitch to the city council - allow us to make a presentation to propose a citywide ban on styrofoam containers. 

During their remarks made during public comment (see video below), the students outlined the environmental and health hazards from the excessive use of plastic and styrofoam worldwide. Each student respectfully asked the Mayor and four council members for the opportunity to make a presentation proposing a ban in Elk Grove.

Following their requests, the city has allowed the students to make a presentation at the Wednesday, May 22 meeting. While having an opportunity to make a presentation without the standard three-minute public comment constriction is no small fete, the students still face a significant hurdle in the form of corporate influence.

That corporate influence is from Mason, Mich.-based Dart Container. The privately held company has a styrofoam recycling contract with the city of Elk Grove. 

In that contract, Dart has agreed to provide styrofoam recycling services at the city's Special Waste Collection Center on Disposal Lane. While the economics of delivering that service might be questionable, there is a sweetener in that agreement that seemingly helps preserve the market for styrofoam.

The boilerplate contract states that in consideration for providing the recycling of the material, "the community in which the Site[sic] exists does not ban the use of polystyrene foam and agrees to notify Dart in the event of a ban."

Former city manager Laura Gill entered the one-year contract with an automatic renewal with Dart on January 19, 2018. After the initial one-year term, the agreement can be terminated by either party with a 30-day notice (see contract below). 

The students seeking the ban, face two significant hurdles. The first would be if the city council agrees to ban the use of styrofoam containers, it would have to cancel the Dart agreement and find another way to dispose of the plastic left at the collection center.         

Aside from the challenge of having the city council direct the city manager to terminate the Dart agreement, they also face a political challenge. Not surprisingly, the problem is political contributions. 

In December 2017 - about one month before Gill agreed to the contract - Dart made contributions to two current council members - Stephanie Nguyen and Darren Suen. On December 12 and 17 Nguyen and Suen respectively each received $2,000 from Dart. 

Along with contributions, Dart has also contributed to Elk Grove's representatives in the Assembly and State Senate, Jim Cooper and Dr. Richard Pan. Statewide during 2018 Dart had political donations totaling $726,993. 

So as the students seek to move their proposition along, they will confront an influential corporate political contributor whose interests stands in their way. Regardless of the outcome of their efforts, the students will learn lessons not taught in class. 

Post a Comment Default Comments

1 comment

D.J. Blutarsky said...

Follow the money!

Follow Us



Elk Grove News Minute

All previous Elk Grove News Minutes, interviews, and Dan Schmitt's Ya' Gotta be Schmittin' Me podcasts are now available on iTunes

Ya Gott be Schmittin' me Podcast

Elk Grove News Podcast

Listen to other podcasts in our archives here

More Than Three Minutes Podcast

[image src="IMAGE LINK"/], pub-5438620617508054, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0