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Taking Away Harmful Take Out Containers in Santa Monica

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The The LA Times is reporting that beginning February 9th, restaurants in Santa Monica will be facing a ban on nonrecyclable foam and plastic, as city officials are "hoping to put an end to the blight of discarded take-out boxes and beverage cups on their beach." The City of Santa Monica outlines the reasons for their decision on their website:

Expanded polystyrene and non-recyclable plastic together make up the largest amount of waste that ends up on Santa Monica’s beaches. At the annual Coastal Cleanup Day, 10,000 volunteers came out to clean the beaches and in three hours picked up over 75,000 lbs. of trash, most of which was identified as Styrofoam® and plastic.

Many eateries in the area have already switched to biodegradable containers for take out food and "doggie bags" like the Border Grill on 4th Street, who began using containers made of corn-based materials this fall. The Times quotes Border Grill co-owner Mary Sue Milliken: "[Santa Monica] is a great place to set an example -- the city is small enough and there are enough progressive thinkers in government that we aren't daunted by the hassle of creating change."However, some businesses aren't seeing the feasability of using their greenbacks to go green so soon. The Times uses the eatery Milliken helms with fellow "Hot Tamale" Susan Feniger as an example of cost analysis:

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[T]he costs of swapping are hefty. Border Grill, which has a large take-out and catering business, spends $1,100 monthly on to-go supplies -- $200 more each month than last year. A case of 2,000 corn-based soufflé cups costs $51, nearly double the price of a case of polystyrene cups.

This leaves proprieters of smaller businesses struggling to find a viable way to pay for take out containers made of eco-friendly materials that can replace the more affordable and accessible ones they current use, which are made of inexpensive polystyrene or plastic foam. Santa Monica hired Josephine Miller to work on implementing the two-part ban, which began on February 9th of this year for City facilities and events, and her "division has budgeted $15,715 for a new employee to monitor the city's restaurants, and $31,000 for supplies and public education for two years." Her work inlcudes approaching vendors and providing them with options for their containers and contact information for suppliers. Sitll, she explains in the Times article that she has to do a lot of "hand-holding" with business owners. Santa Monica is joining other Los Angeles-area communities, like Calabasas and Malibu, who already have bans on plastic foam. They will be, however, "the only city in the state to ban both polystyrene and nonrecyclable plastic."

Photo by _e.t via Flickr