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Anna's Angle: Council Should Speed Up Styrofoam Ban

Global warming waits for no city council.

Editor's Note: Anna Dagum is a sophomore at Sequoia High School and enrolled in the journalism class. She will be writing opinion pieces on myriad issues in our city.

As cities around the bay area strive to be more “green”, Redwood City keeps up with the budding trend by (the chemical trademarked as styrofoam) after San Mateo County issued an ordinance proposing the ban in unincorporated areas last July.

This cheaply manufactured material is not biodegradable, resulting in styrofoam increasingly taking up space in landfills and polluting waterways.   Styrofoam manufacturing is done using hydrofluorocarbonsk which contribute to rising greenhouse gasses and our depleting ozone layer.

Because the material is commonly used for disposable food containers, the ban would impact small, local restaurants and put them in search of a more organic, biodegradable alternative.

However, this small implication is in no way justifiable to delay a ban that should have been implemented soon after the county introduced the ordinance last summer.

The city council voted Feb. 6 after increasing county encouragement to create uniformity within the surrounding cities. It also discussed the impact the ban could have on restaurants and grocers around the community. To further delay the ban, some members of the council showed concern for local businesses, proposing the idea to grant the owners time to rid their restaurants of the current stock of styrofoam in time for the new policy to be enforced.

The verdict? Yet to be determined.

But outside of the air conditioned board room, the climate rises. Pollution persists throughout the bay area, oblivious to the decisions being combed over by city council members and staff. Global warming won’t wait for a board meeting, and these local environmental policies, though great baby-steps, should be implemented far more frequently.

With hopes of a bright, clean future for Redwood City youth, these policies need to escalate into more drastic, impactful changes that will greatly reduce the city’s carbon footprint, as well as prevent litter and pollution in our parks and preserves.

The city council needs to take action now. An official styrofoam ban should appear on the next possible agenda so the council can vote on it and create a greener community.

Residents can take their own initiative today through lifestyle choices, reducing waste, and supporting local businesses. Redwood City citizens can hop on the eco-friendly-soybean-biodiesel-powered bandwagon, and join the rest of the bay in an effort to be more green.

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Lou Covey, The Local Motive February 15, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Is it really necessary to beat merchants over the head with fines and laws? Could we not at least try to encourage voluntary participation. For example, what if Patch and other publications; and even civic groups like Sustainable Redwood City call out merchants that are doing the right thing, encouraging people to patronize their places. For example, I note that Chef Chen's on Veterans Blvd. has voluntarily moved away from packing everything in styrofoam and gone back to the old-fashioned cardboard containers. They still use a few flat styro packs and plastic bags to hold everything, but they are making an effort. Maybe we can start a star system for sustainable packaging and publicize the best practices.
Fred February 15, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Lou - It's a nice idea but historically free market policies have not been very successful in driving environmental reform. I would love to see city council pass this local ordinance, and in turn help local merchants by publicizing it. Make Redwood City the greenest city in the peninsula and encourage consumers to patronize RWC over neighboring cities as an easy way to help the environment.
Roger Brina February 16, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Precisely. If voluntary participation and star ratings were all you needed to affect real behavioral change at the local, small-scale level, then it begs the question as to why we aren't already the greenest community around. We can have a debate over whether or not small businesses thrive better with or without regulations but to argue that substantive environmental change can come about without regulation is absurd on its face. That's never been how it has worked in this country: each step closer to a greener planet and greener business behaviors have been the result of hard-fought battles by activists at all levels of govt.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive February 17, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Roger, I have never heard of a voluntary program attempted anywhere. Can you direct me to documentation where a community has tried the carrot over the stick and failed. I'm asking because SF has instituted the stick policy and I still see plastic bags floating into the bay.

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