On July 17th, 2018, Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to add an ordinance prohibiting the distribution and retail sale of expanded polystyrene food and beverage containers to the consent calendar. The ordinance was then adopted on July 24th, 2018.
Expanded polystyrene is commonly referred to as "styrofoam" or "foam". EPS is not recyclable in Santa Barbara. EPS products often find their way into the local environment since EPS breaks down into smaller pieces and is so light that it floats in water and is easily carried by the wind, even when it has been disposed of properly. It is in the City's interest to establish programs and services that reduce the amount of litter in the environment, in particular beach litter and marine pollution, which increases the quality of life for residents and visitors, and protects local wildlife habitat.
Expanded Polystyrene Food Container and Product Ordinance Summary
Resources for Businesses:
When does it go into effect?
This ordinance became operative at 2:01am on January 1st, 2019.
What does it do?
What types of expanded polystyrene (EPS) products are prohibited by the ban?
Examples include, but are not limited to:
Who does this affect?
What are the alternatives to expanded polystyrene?
1) Reusable Containers are the best alternative!
For residents that frequent coffee, smoothie, or food vendors, we recommend making a reusable cup or food container part of your daily routine. You can bring one for leftovers or even to-go orders, just order "for here" and then transfer to your container.
Reusable containers are available at many retailers and come in a range of materials. If you bring your reusable cup, many vendors also offer discounts.
For businesses, encouraging patrons to bring a reusable cup or food container can save you money on decreased disposable container costs. Setup a "transfer table" for residents that would like to order To-Go food and use their reusable container instead of disposables. Some business types can even try to close-the-loop on their products by offering incentives for patrons to bring back the original container that the product was sold in; then clean and sanitize containers for reuse. If you currently provide disposables for dine-in patrons, consider using reusable dishware instead and it could save you money on your trash bill.
If you have any questions about alternative materials or how to incorporate more reusables in your business, please reach out to one of our City Recycling Coordinators at (805) 564-5631. We're here to help!
2) Single-use Alternatives
Paper or fiber products: If a reusable option isn't available, sustainable sourced paper or fiber products come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. However, paper or fiber products that have food or water on them are not recyclable.
Single-use plastics are another alternative but if they are not clean and dry (meaning they have food or water residue) they cannot be recycled. If food and water soiled plastic food containers are thrown in the blue bin they could contaminate the rest of the recyclables rendering all of your recyclables as trash.
What are the exemptions?
The following foods or products are exempt from the provisions of this Chapter:
Other exemptions that require an application:
Our recycling outreach team is here to answer any questions about the ordinance and to help you find styrofoam alternatives. You can reach us by emailing email@example.com or by calling our office at (805) 564-5631.