Plastics and foam ban panned

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Local businesses say costs will rise to shift from foam to paper containers and are grappling with how to sell hot and cold beverages to go.

By Hans Laetz/Special to The Malibu Times

Several Malibu businesses say a recently passed ban on foam cups, plastic dinnerware and cup lids is confusing and leaves them not knowing how to sell hot and cold beverages to go. The city council is being asked by Mayor Sharon Barovsky to significantly scale back the ordinance before it goes into effect July 1. The ordinance passed by a 4-1 last month.

“If we’ve made an error-and I think we did-it was a small one,” Barovsky said.

Intended to put a stop to decomposing Styrofoam-type containers on beaches and in the bay, the ordinance is being panned by Malibu businesses, which say they did not see it coming, although the city met twice-once to discuss it and at the other passing it-and a story on it appeared in The Malibu Times. One small business operator said her costs would triple if she shifts from foam to paper cups for frozen treats.

“My intention was to ban the kind of polystyrene that breaks up into little, tiny pieces and gets in the ocean and is mistaken for food by fish, which are poisoned by them,” the mayor said Monday. She said she will ask the council to bring back the ordinance for clarification and amendment.

Major chains like Jack in the Box and Starbucks are grappling with the question of how to sell hot and cold beverages without plastic cup lids, which are banned in Malibu beginning July 1. And “that’s a good question,” said Tim Shestek, western regional director for the American Plastics Council. “I have never seen a way to keep a drink in a cup that doesn’t include a plastic lid.”

One employee of a local business said the floors were running with sticky goo the night they ran out of plastic lids and sold topless sodas.

Also included in the ban is “oriented polystyrene,” which apparently includes cup lids and the clear plastic shells used in salad bar containers at supermarkets.

“I think this will affect those plastic clamshells,” said Gilbert Canizales, a California Grocers Association representative who is working with two affected member stores in Malibu: HOWS Trancas Market and Ralphs.

Some of the ordinance’s provisions seem to give advantage to out-of-state vendors. For example, a chicken packaged on a foam tray in Arkansas would not violate the ordinance. But a chicken breast placed on an identical foam tray in Trancas Beach would.

Chain restaurants say they don’t know what to do. A plastic disposable plate may be illegal as it is arguably manufactured out of oriented polystyrene.

A Jack in the Box spokeswoman in San Diego said the company will obey Malibu’s law just as soon as the city figures out what the law is.

“Starbucks is studying the ordinance and we’ll have a response later,” said Liz Rizaldi, a spokeswoman for the Seattle-based company with two Malibu outlets.

She said researchers in Seattle also are not sure if there is anything on the market that will keep hot coffee in a paper cup, while not using the types of plastic banned in Malibu.