June 8, 2011


Beach trash

SB 568 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would prohibit food vendors and restaurants from dispensing prepared foods to customers in polystyrene foam beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

foam in cigarette butts  . . .

This is legislation that cries out for support. Much of the trash we collect from the beach is foam. Most often foam makes it's way to the ocean via storm drains and is then tossed around in the sea, broken apart and fragmented by wave action. Eventually these foam pieces end up as miniscule particles that to sea life, appear to be food. On any given day on our beautiful Northern California beaches one can pick up thousands of tiny pieces of foam along the break line in the sand. Surprisingly, if you look very closely at the tide line you will see the tiny beads of foam.

What are Polystyrene beads?

Polystyrene beads are the tiny bits of expanded polystyrene that are used to create, among other things, the familiar stuffing of beanbag chairs and stuffed toys. They are used to create the loose, protective packaging material that is commonly called "packing peanuts." Polystyrene itself is a thermoplastic material that exists in solid form at room temperature and melts when heated. It is a recyclable material, but many recycling facilities are not equipped to process these "number 6" recyclables. Local recycling facilities can confirm to residents whether or not polystyrene can be discarded with paper, glass, and aluminum recyclables for curbside pickup. 

The most common form of plastic, solid polystyrene is a hard, colorless plastic that is semi-rigid and limited in flexibility. It can be processed as a transparent material or infused with artificial coloration. Disposable picnic cutlery, model vehicles, smoke detector casings, reusable "doggie boxes" that are gaining popularity with chain restaurants, and DVD cases are everyday examples of the myriad uses of solid polystyrene

The "beans" in beanbag chairs are made of polystyrene beads, also called polystyrene pellets, and are an example of foamed polystyrene. Packing peanuts, home insulation, and foam drinking cups are further examples of foamed polystyrene. The polystyrene beads in a beanbag chair will eventually need replacing; although they aren't biodegradable, they will become flattened and begin to break down as they are crushed and air is squeezed from the foam. As with other polystyrene products, local recycling authorities should be contacted if curbside pickup of this material is not available. Polystyrene is typically manufactured in one of three forms: extruded polystyrene, expanded polystyrene foam, and extruded polystyrene foam. 

Produced by Dow Chemical, extruded polystyrene foam insulation is sold under the trademarked brand name of Styrofoam®. Like other products that have become so commonplace that a brand name has become a generic term (e.g., Q-Tips, Kleenex, Popsicle), Styrofoam® is often used as a catchall word to describe other foamed polystyrene items. The polystyrene used for beanbags and packing peanuts is not extruded polystyrene foam (XPS), but expanded polystyrene foam. In addition to furniture stuffing and packing peanuts, expanded polystyrene beads are also used to create the custom-molded packing material that cushions fragile objects for transport.

chunk of foam beach trash

A lot of the foam we retrieve is from boats; foam 'bumpers', floats and foam coolers. Foam is a fairly ideal product if you want something to float, cushion or insulate.

foam filled tire

SB 568 focuses on polystyrene food containers. It's a good place to start. Eliminating foam is critical for the health of our oceans. 

California Senate votes to ban foam takeout containers
Sandwiches, milkshakes and other food items frequently packaged in foam takeout containers will have to be packaged in other materials under a bill that cleared the state Senate on Thursday. SB 568 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) would prohibit food vendors and restaurants from dispensing prepared foods to customers in polystyrene foam beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Expanded polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is a lightweight plastic that, when littered, is often carried from streets through storm drains into the ocean. It accounts for 15% of storm drain litter, according to the California Department of Transportation. It is the second-most-common type of beach debris, according to a study by the Southern California Coastal Water Quality Research Project.

Fifty California jurisdictions have already banned foam takeout food packaging, including Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu and Ventura County.
"There are all these jurisdictions in California that have to control trash and reduce their discharges of trash to waterways, and they're having a hard time complying because foam litter is so hard to control. That's the reason for this bill," said Miriam Gordon, state director of Clean Water Action, a national advocacy group that sponsored SB 568.

"I introduced this bill not just to solve an environmental problem that plagues our state but also because it's a job booster for California," Lowenthal said. He added that many California companies are making alternatives to polystyrene takeout packaging, including compostable materials, aluminum foil and paper.

SB 568 passed on a bipartisan 21-15 vote. The bill is headed to the Assembly this month, with a floor vote by the end of August.

Click here to find your representative  
Write and/or call your Assembly Member and let them know you are a constituent and ask that they vote 'yes' on SB 568 to ban polystyrene food containers. Your letter or phone call need not be lengthy. This is a critical step in getting any piece of legislation passed.  

Your representatives represent YOU! YOUR VOICE MATTERS! Call or Write today. 

I am in District 1, my Assembly Member is Wesley Chesbro.

50 "D" Street, Suite 450
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Tel: (707) 576-2526
Fax: (707) 576-2297

 I spoke with one of Mr. Chesbro's very helpful staff personnel, 'Gail', this afternoon and asked her to add my name to the list of people who are in support of SB 568. Gail recommended that constituents in Mr. Chesbro's district (only) use his website: 

Wesley Chesbro, 1st District Assembly Member

and click on 'Contact Us' to send a message. This is a direct route to get your opinions read by Mr. Chesbro and staff. You are limited to 200 characters so if you have more to say send a written letter directly to his district office in Santa Rosa.

Your voice is critical to the health of our coast and to the health of our earth. Thank you for taking the time to make a difference. xxoo

beach poppies

Beach trash ~ Entangled rope

my beach buddy . . .

Beach trash ~ oyster bag wash up on Doran Beach

I carried this oyster bag made of plastic, 2 miles down the beach . . . I would have carried it 20 . . .

Just for fun . . .

The Owl and the Pussycat 


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