“Styrofoam is one of the main, if not the main pollutants found during beach clean ups”, stated by Gabriella Hernandez, Ocean Friendly Restaurants Captain. “We have become a society that feels entitled to convenience and there is no thought about the repercussions of our actions. We need to look at the bigger picture and put some thought into our consumption habits. We need ask ourselves is a 1 time use worth 500 plus years of pollution? ”
Styrofoam is a brand name for expanded polystyrene, the cheap foam products used by many restaurants for their take out containers. Styrofoam and other plastics break down in the ocean releasing toxic chemicals like BPA, which are known carcinogens, into the ocean. Along with turning the ocean into a toxic soup, sea life consume bits of plastic mistaken for food. Styrofoam may break into smaller pieces but does not biodegrade significantly, which is a problem when it becomes litter.
Ocean Friendly Restaurants rewards local businesses that make a voluntary change to not use Styrofoam and/or plastic take out containers. Eliminating these containers reduces the amount of litter that hits our streets, drains to our rivers and ends up on the beaches and oceans. Recent Ocean Friendly Restaurant awardees include Lola’s Mexican Cuisine, The Green House, Z Pizza, Crooked Duck, Simmzy’s, Steamed Organic vegetarian Cuisine and the Factory Gastrobar.
There are three different levels to the OFR campaign, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. All levels have the minimum requirement of no take-out Styrofoam containers. In addition to not using Styrofoam and to achieve a higher level the restaurant can choose three of the six options: Plastic straws are provided only upon request, take-out bags are provided only upon request or customers are encouraged to bring their own, take-out beverage containers may not be plastic (includes plastic bottles), take-out food containers may not be plastic, disposable utensils for take-out provided upon request, and proper recycling and trash disposal practices are followed throughout restaurant. To be at a Platinum level, there must be no plastic take-out usage at all, this includes Styrofoam, plastic bags, tableware, straws, etc…
For their pollution fighting efforts the awardee restaurant receives an award, is advertised through Surfrider media, and receives an Ocean Friendly Restaurant decal to put in their window allowing the public to know about their efforts.
“This a small step taken in our local community to eventually address a global problem,” stated Surfrider’s Long Beach Chapter Chair Seamus Innes.