Grover Beach considering restrictions on foam food containers

Some restaurants worry about increased costs

Grover Beach considering restrictions...

GROVER BEACH, Calif. - A drive on Grand Avenue in Grover Beach offers locals and tourists a number of food options at the many restaurants that line the busy street.

Many of these restaurants, which are mostly locally owned, use polystyrene food containers, including Station Grill.

"We are use them for drink cups and to-go food orders," said manager Kris Green. "Pretty frequently throughout the day. We do quite a few to-go orders for sure, especially on weekends."

The popular restaurant located adjacent to the Amtrak station, as well as all other eating establishments that have not already done so, may soon have to phase out the foam containers.

On Monday, Grover Beach City Council is scheduled to receive an informational report from the city manager about potentially regulating the use of polystyrene.

Since 2015, four other Central Coast cities, including neighboring Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach, plus San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay have all adopted regulations on the use of polystyrene.

They join more than 80 cities statewide that have restricted the use of the foam containers.

According to a Grover Beach staff report, restricting the use of the containers would be done so for environmental concerns.

The report states polystyrene is made of non-renewable petroleum products and manufactured with a monomer called Styrene, which may have adverse effects on human health.

Restaurants, like Station Grill, have been utilizing the familiar plain-white foam food containers for years.

Switching to recyclable, biodegradable or compostable containers would typically cause a significant increase in supply costs.

"Businesses we talked to were looking at either doubling the costs of their supplies, some of them was even tripling or even quadrupling the costs of their supplies, so that's big concern for mom-and-pop business," said Arroyo Grande/Grover Beach Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Judith Bean.

Bean says the chamber recently took a survey of Grover Beach restaurants to determine how much of impact a potential regulation would cause.

"A lot of businesses have already steps to reduce or do without polysytrene altogether," said Bean. "We did find in some businesses, it's more difficult that others."

At Station Grill, Green says any increase in supply costs would likely be passed along to customers in the form of higher prices.

"We're on a fine line already," Green said. "It would up the cost, especially the drinks, sodas and coffee and stuff would go up. We're talking not just pennies, but quite a few cents to cover the costs of that."

Both Bean and Green also have concerns regarding the comparison in quality with alternative food packaging versus foam.

"The quality I don't think is better," said Green. "Some places that I've gone it leaks out, it deteriorates before you get it home."

Bean agreed, adding that finding a specific design could also be an issue.

"Depending on the type of food that they used in a to-go container, that can be problematic as well," said Bean. "Paper gets mushy and if you have the type of food that you use separate compartments, you can't always get that kind of product that's a recyclable."

Green and Bean also emphasized that businesses are aware of the importance of caring for the environment, but acknowledge it's a "Catch-22" for owners.

Green noted Station Grill has long been an advocate for recycling waste.

"You definitely want to save the environment," said Green. "But sometimes there are hassles."

With the information she has collected, Bean will speak to City Council to offer

"The Chamber Board of Directors would like to see City Council hold off on an ordinance right now," said Bean. "We think it would hurt those very small businesses to have a polystyrene ordinance in place right now."

Bean adds she's not opposed to a polystyrene ordinance, just hoping city leaders will enact a few measures before it implements one.

"We'd like to see a few things in place before the ordinance takes place," Bean said. "We'd like to see a long lead time, so people can burn through their inventory. We'd also like to see more businesses on the streets in Grover Beach and a few things in place so there aren't open store fronts."

Since City Council is only receiving an informational report tonight, no action will be taken.

Depending on what happens during the meeting, an ordiance could eventually be voted on at some point in the future.

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