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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | monterey county

Styrofoam ban a success

October 2011

Three years after the adoption of an ordinance banning the use of polystyrene take-out containers in the City of Santa Cruz, Chris Moran, Waste Reduction Manager for the City, recounts the journey that has virtually eliminated Styrofoam coffee cups and clamshells from the City landfill.

The program has been in place since August of 2008. For 18 years prior to that, the City had a voluntary ordinance which had no teeth. "Now we have an ordinance that prohibits any kind of polystyrene to-go food containers. It is very clear and easy to enforce," said Moran. "Businesses really do want to do the right thing."

Moran not only promoted the ordinance for the City of Santa Cruz, she enforces compliance, as well. "We were the first to have a penalty structure in place that is business friendly. After a warning letter and 30 days notice we can fine a business $100. But instead of paying the fine, we accept receipts of $100 or over, showing that the business purchased biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable to-go products for their business. We don't want their money, we want to change their behavior, and we are willing to help businesses make the switch."

Capitola was the first community in Santa Cruz County to limit the use of Styrofoam. After Santa Cruz's business-friendly ordinance passed in 2008, Santa Cruz County, Monterey, Scotts Valley, and Salinas followed suit with ordinances of their own using the Santa Cruz law as a model.

According to Save Our Shores, they have found 50% less Styrofoam along our beaches since 2008 when the Santa Cruz ban began.

The program works by having the public confidentially report where they see polystyrene to-go products being used whether anywhere in the City of Santa Cruz or elsewhere in the County. Chris Moran explains, "There is a communication network between the City of Santa Cruz, the County of Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, Capitola, Monterey, Watsonville, and Salinas. If you report to one of us, the information will get passed along. Someone will make sure that a business, school, or event complies with our ordinances."

How to help
If you see a business, school, or any other establishment providing food or drinks in polystyrene foam please call 420-5424 or email .

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