I recently moved back to Santa Barbara after living in San Francisco for two years. It’s funny: I never noticed the lack of polystyrene to-go containers there until I moved home and realized that they are everywhere in Santa Barbara. I suppose “everywhere” may be extreme, as there are several places I can think of that use carry-out containers made from alternative materials.
San Francisco is one of 31 cities in California with a ban on expanded polystyrene or Styrofoam to-go containers in eateries. This ban was put in place because of the damage the product can cause both in production and use. This expanded polystyrene is made with unsustainable materials, and harmful chemicals are a byproduct of production. Further, it contains toxins that can leach from the foam into hot food or drinks.
Supporters of these polystyrene products argue that they are the best for the job, as they do insulate well (hot food stays hot, cold drinks stay cold) and are the least expensive of any to-go containers on the market. I believe that the bad outweighs the good on this issue, and if the more than 4,000 restaurants in San Francisco have found a way to cope with the ban of this harmful product, Santa Barbara eateries can surely do the same.
In my family, we are trying to do our part now. We will decline to take our food to go in a polystyrene container, opting for a piece of foil or waxed paper when it is available. You can’t even imagine the looks you get if you bring your own plate to a restaurant that uses polystyrene plates, but I feel it is important and makes a difference. The City of Santa Barbara should consider a ban on these expanded polystyrene containers and join the 100 cities across the country that are finding better alternatives. — Sarah Kate