Informal group to study possible styrofoam ban Elk Grove CIty Council decides

Dart Container representative Becky Warren attempting to reframe the negative environmental hazards of styrofoam
into a litter issue. | 


In a victory for styrofoam interests and more specifically Mason, Michigan-based Dart Container,  the Elk Grove City Council decided last night to defer any decision on a styrofoam ban and instead created an informal group to study the feasibility of a ban of the environmentally hazardous products in the city. 

The discussion of the possible ban was placed on the city council agenda following public comment during the May 22 council meeting. At that meeting, several students from environmental clubs at Elk Grove area high schools spoke about styrofoam's environmental hazards and asked to have the item placed on a future agenda.

During public comments, representatives from Dart, the California Restaurant Association and the American Chemistry Council spoke against the ban. They argued the styrofoam represents slightly more than one percent of the waste products and that a ban would negatively affect small restaurant owners.

Speaking on behalf of Dart, employee Becky Warren did not address the environmental hazard of her employers products. Instead, she attempted to redirect the conversation to a more benign topic.

"We stand ready to work with you on a comprehensive and effective solution that can further reduce litter in waterways and reduce landfill waste," Warren said. "We don't believe the solution is a ban. Foam containers are less than one and a half percent of the waste chain, so a ban will not really help."

Dart operates a facility in Lodi and offers the city no-cost recycling of foam products from Elk Grove's waste recycling facility. Unmentioned during the proceedings was Dart's political contributions.

In December 2017 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.

Speaking on behalf of restaurant owners was Matt Sutton of the California Restaurant Association. Taking his cue from Dart's Warren, Sutton tried reframing styrofoam ban from an environmental hazard to a litter problem.

"We do as a restaurant community take litter abatement incredibly seriously," he stated.

Among students from Elk Grove high school environmental clubs who urged the council to consider the ban was Allison Yee. In her comments, Yee, a Cosumnes Oaks High School student, noted even a one percent reduction in hazardous waster is significant.

"One percent if we ban styrofoam is one step closer to a better future," Yee said. "It's still making a change happen in our lives and in 20 years styrofoam will probably be banned, if we ban it now we are just ahead of the future." 

Sensing the council's direction before their deliberations started, Elk Grove High School student Addie Parkington pushed back on the formation of committees.

"I don't believe that a committee or anything else would really help this issue," she said. "We've been dragging out this for a month now, maybe even more, and I think if we did that it would just keep being a discussion and nothing would really happen."

Addressing the controversy of an ordinance banning their use, Parkington added "I don't think this idea can be all about making everyone in Elk Grove happy, because we know that's not possible, I think it is about doing what's right."

Elk Grove City Council Member Stephanie Nguyen opened council deliberation and said a styrofoam ban would adversely affect restaurants. After praising the students, Nyguen said "But I will say that we have quite a few letters from local restaurants in our city as well too that are asking us to not ban it, right."

In his comments, Council Member Darren Suen also said a ban would hurt business, and they need certainty for their operations.

"If you're a business, that's one of these things about us [City of Elk Grove], this city, being good for business, is predictable processes," Suen said.

According to the staff report, the city council decision would form an informal group that would not be subject to the Brown Act. No details of who would be included in the group were provided.

Closing the deliberations Vice Mayor Pat Hume told the students to stay involved. He did qualify his comment and admonished the young environmental activist. 

"But, I was a little discouraged by something that a couple of you said that dismissed the other side that you have nothing to learn there, that there is no reason to be engaged with them," Hume said. "You always have something learn from the other side if only how to better craft your argument to defeat them at a later date." 

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2019. All right reserved.



 






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