August 3, 2011

Pressure Mounts Over City of Salinas Styrofoam Ban

Editorial by Matthew Spiegl, Salinas Attorney and Community Activist:


Polystyrene beach litter is set to surpass lettuce as the City of Salinas’ biggest visible export if the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce and a small handful of other “anti-government” individuals and disinterested City Councilmembers get their way.

The Counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz already have bans on polystyrene foam food containers, as do the Cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks, Santa Cruz, Capitola, Watsonville, and Scotts Valley. Despite the bans that are already in place in these near-ocean cities, polystyrene litter continues to wreak havoc with the shoreline and marine life of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. As the biggest City on the Central Coast, Salinas also looks to be the biggest single source of the polystyrene litter that is making its way onto the beaches and into the waters of the Marine Sanctuary itself. There are people in the City of Salinas who can put pencil to paper, but who still lack the vision to see how a polystyrene ban can enhance the image of the City. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce certainly understand how Salinas’ polystyrene litter problem directly affects their image and, unlike the Salinas Chamber, are voicing their support to the Mayor and City Council asking that the City of Salinas support and pass the proposed ban.

I had the good fortune to meet Laura Kasa of Save Our Shores over the Fourth of July weekend. When she asked me if I could help her get connected with some folks in Salinas and businesses who will support a ban on polystyrene foam food containers, I couldn't say no. From there the synergy just flowed between us to drive this polystyrene ban toward passage, and along the way, we have drawn in more new people with each new meeting.

There is a real renaissance taking place in Salinas with new leaders in elected office, private business, civic organizations and at the neighborhood level as well. This is about the residents taking their city back and reclaiming their neighborhoods and insisting on progressive policies toward the environment and the economy as coexistent, not competing, interests. This is about environmental justice and it is not extreme, it is mainstream, and it is the new face of "Main Street" all across California. It is time to start thinking of Salinas as a "Gateway" to the Bay and the National Marine Sanctuary. It is time to step up to our stewardship responsibility, to embrace the coast as our own, and to protect it. It is good for our image as a City, it is good for the environment, it is good for the economy,

it is most definitely good for the health and future of our children, and it is good for Big Ag as well - people want to see slices of radicchio in their salad, not bits and pieces of polystyrene plastic.

Groups opposed to the ban risk isolating themselves and becoming irrelevant in this new environmentally driven, high-tech economy, and Salinas can't risk such a narrow vision for its future. We need to adopt bold strategies, and look to such innovative and forward thinking organizations as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group for a new way of thinking, and a new model for success. By passing the polystyrene ban, the City of Salinas will be taking a huge step forward, and making a statement that Salinas is a leader, not a follower.

Please attend the Salinas City Council Meeting on Tuesday, August 16th to voice your support.

Editorial by Matthew Spiegl, Salinas Attorney and Community Activist

With help from Laura Kasa, Executive Director, Save Our Shores


  1. Thank you so much for sharing - coastal activism is so important -if we all do a little, a lot will get done.

    Take care of yourselves!
    (I feature you on my blog)

    beachside cottage

  2. Thank you Matt for taking an active interest and role in the environmental impact our local community has. I agree that there is no reason for continued use of the polystyrene foam food containers. The initial impact for transition is minute compared to the long term effects.


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