A Los Angeles City Council committee Tuesday brought the city closer to banning single-use plastic water bottles, and it recommended a study be conducted on the effects of outlawing containers made of materials like Styrofoam.
The Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee voted unanimously to send the proposals to the City Council for consideration.
Committee members discussed the restaurant industry’s hurdles in banning polystyrene, which is used in a variety of food containers and storage. Not only isn’t it biodegradable but it’s one of the culprits of ocean pollution and landfill mass, experts have argued. Many of the containers are used in food delivery service.
“The dilemma for restaurants is that more people are having food delivered,” City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said.
Several public speakers said they are in favor of the bans, which included representatives from the Sierra Club and Heal the Bay.
Polystyrene is crucial to some food service businesses, other speakers said.
Councilman Gilbert Cedillo said he supports the move toward environmentally friendly cutlery and food containers, but he also said this ban could have a devastating effect on local restaurants because of the costs associated with replacing their material or losing a customer convenience edge.
“These concerns that these small businesses have are real,” Cedillo said. “We have to keep in mind what the impacts are, and I’d like to see an economic impact report.”
Cedillo said the city may want to try to subsidize businesses with an “environmental credit” of some kind to soften the blow of changing out a major portion of their inventory.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who chairs the committee, said the people who live near businesses where trash overflow is prevalent also need to be protected, and she cited health concerns found in recent research. The World Health Organization in 2018 reclassified polystyrene from a “possible” to a “probable” carcinogen.
O’Farrell said there are alternatives which could be explored to replace the plastics and polystyrene materials throughout the city’s restaurants and retail.
“There’s a lot of information that can be shared that will relieve some of the worries based on the data that the (Department of) Sanitation has,” O’Farrell said.
The committee furthered another proposed ordinance to the full council, which would require 75% of each beverage container sold to be made of recycled materials and require the caps of those products to be attached.
Councilman Paul Krekorian introduced the proposal to ban single-use plastic water bottles in June when the Department of Water and Power announced a plan to install or refurbish 200 public drinking stations.
“Buying bottled water is not the right way for consumers to ensure their financial well-being,” Krekorian said.
The project to expand and clean up tap-water stations throughout the city’s parks and recreation areas is intended to facilitate public water accessibility, as part of the city’s Green New Deal, and to prepare for the 2028 Olympic Games.