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Cal Chamber vs. Sixth Graders: Who's the Real Job Killer?

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Labeled a "job killer" by the California Chamber of Commerce (Cal Chamber) Senate Bill 568 by
Senator Alan Lowenthal would enact a statewide ban on Styrofoam* (expanded polystyrene foam)
take-out food containers.

We are not living in the '60s, this isn't a movie, and the future is not plastics! SB 568 is a piece of legislation whose time has come, and it addresses a product whose time has passed.

The job killer claim is one the Cal Chamber can't back up. It's set against a reality they can no longer ignore and facts they can't deny. The people of California are demanding the removal of this nuisance product that indiscriminately litters and pollutes our environment, and it's high time the California Legislature listened.

Sixty-four California cities and counties totaling approximately nine million residents have already enacted local foam bans because they understand the urgency of this issue and are not willing to wait any longer for our legislators in Sacramento to act. That's nearly one-quarter of the state's population, and the numbers continue to grow as more and more local jurisdictions take up foam bans out of sheer frustration by Sacramento's inaction on this issue.

In all of these jurisdictions, food vendors provide their take out in readily available and cost-comparable, alternative packaging including, paper, plastic, aluminum foil, and biodegradable and compostable materials, many of which are manufactured right here in California.

Mom and pop diners and national chain restaurants are all operating in jurisdictions with foam bans and doing just fine. Contrary to the Cal Chamber's assertions, there has been no indication of adverse business or other negative economic effects related to the banning of foam food ware in the cities and counties that have already done so, as explained here.

In addition, SB 568 does not prohibit the production of Styrofoam food ware and there is nothing in the legislation to restrict the export of California manufactured foam food ware products to other states or overseas, which manufacturers like DART Container Corporation do already.

As early as 2004, the California Integrated Waste Management Board was recommending that companies like DART move away from expanded polystyrene foam and diversify their product lines into compostable and biodegradable alternatives.

DART has had eight years to change and could have easily dominated the burgeoning new alternative to-go food ware market if it wanted -- but it didn't. DART also could have made an investment in California by upgrading its two plants to produce the alternative products if it wanted -- but it didn't do that either.

Rather than be a good citizen and contribute to California's economic future, DART, a Michigan based, family owned business whose head, Kenneth Dart, renounced his United States Citizenship to avoid paying taxes, has chosen to ask the taxpayers of California to subsidize its profits by forcing local communities and the state to pick up the real cost of cleaning up the pollution and litter that Styrofoam food ware leaves behind.

As Styrofoam production declines in the state, new jobs are being created in the alternative food ware packaging sector; it's job growth that is projected to continue. So what's really behind the Cal Chamber's job killer campaign against SB 568?

This isn't about jobs versus the environment; it's about one industry versus another, with the Cal Chamber siding with the plastic industry to the exclusion of all the other California businesses that are producing the alternative non-foam food ware products.

The job killer campaign against SB 568 is shameful propaganda aimed at an important piece of environmental legislation. It is an example of fear-mongering at its worst. The real facts about the positive impact of SB 568 can be found here.

The sky isn't falling, but the demand for Styrofoam to-go food ware is, and nowhere is that more evident than the State of California.

Last week the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced it would stop using Styrofoam food trays for student lunches. That's a pretty big deal. The LAUSD is the largest school district in the state and the second largest in the nation.

The LAUSD decided to ban foam lunch trays thanks to a group of young sixth grade students at the Thomas Starr King Middle School. It took them two years, but their commitment to ensuring a cleaner and healthier environment for their future finally paid off.

The Cal Chamber would call these young students "job killers" -- I call them heroes!

In the final days of the California legislative session, imagine if we could have the president of the Cal Chamber debating against the students of the Thomas Starr King Middle School about the merits of Senate Bill 568 on the floor of the Assembly. We can't do that, but we can do the next best thing. We can listen to these bright young students speaking about why they banned Styrofoam in this video.

I think you'll agree; the students would win the debate hands down and carry a majority of legislators with them. These students are articulate, passionate, and above all else, eloquent in their defense of the environment. They understand the perils of the future they will face tomorrow if the problem of disposable, single-use plastic pollution isn't addressed today.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: If students today, want to change the world they are
going to live in tomorrow, let them. It's their world to change and we shouldn't get it their way.
By supporting and passing SB 568 we are simply giving the next generation the head start they deserve.

In the past when the Cal Chamber rolled out its job killer juggernaut of lobbyists and surrogates and in-the-pocket legislators, the opposition cowered and gave up. But not this time; this time the environment is fighting back, the ocean is rising up in a wave of change, and society is demanding to be heard.

People -- not plastics -- are going to win the day.

(*Styrofoam is a registered trademark of the DOW Chemical Company. "Styrofoam" is commonly, although mistakenly, used by the general public as a generic term for expanded polystyrene foam or EPS food ware products such as foam cups and clamshell take-out containers.)