The Sonoma City Council has approved an ordinance to ban polystyrene containers – including food coolers, takeout meal boxes, shipping foam and pool noodles from sale or use in the city. Council members voted 5-0 to ban polystyrene products, which contain chemicals that do not compost, instead breaking down into smaller and smaller “microplastics” that get into the water and food supply of fish and wildlife.

The ordinance is based on a template from Zero Waste Sonoma, formerly known as Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, and several other cities in the county have already adopted variations of the ban, including Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Windsor, Sebastopol and Petaluma.

Common uses of polystyrene pellets include foam picnic coolers, shipping peanuts, molded shipping containers for breakable items, takeout food plates and similar products. It also applies to disposable plastic service ware, such as spoons, forks or sporks.

As well as polystyrene products, made from tiny plastic nuggets that do not break down over time and create “microplastics” which exist indefinitely in landfill, landscapes and the ocean, the ordinance also bans PFAs, perfluoroalkyl and polyflouroalkyl substances, similar “forever chemicals” linked to adverse human and animal health effects.

Travis Wagner, the city’s sustainability manager, tailored the proposed ordinance to allow a limited exemption to the ban in the case of a public health emergency or a disruption on recycling or composting facilities. Also, disposable food service ware that does not contain polystyrene foam or PFAs must be accepted for recycling or composting in Sonoma.

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Author: Christian Kallen, Sonoma Index-Tribune
Image: Caleb Lucas on Unsplash