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Proposed California law could put Lodi’s Dart Container company out of business

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Posted: Thursday, June 30, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:39 am, Sat Jul 2, 2011.

Lodi's Dart Container plant is fighting to stay in business as a bill proposing to end or greatly restrict Styrofoam usage in California inches closer to being passed by state legislators.

The plant has been a major supply source for local and state distributors of plastic foam cups, plates and boxes since it opened in Lodi 28 years ago. It has also been a top job provider for the area.

But a bill proposed by State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, which aims to ban or restrict Styrofoam usage, could force the plant to shut its doors and put roughly 90 people out of work. Lowenthal could not be reached for comment.

The bill, SB 568, would prohibit food vendors, starting January 1, 2016, from serving prepared foods to customers in polystyrene foam food containers — also known as Styrofoam. But the bill does state that should a "verifiable" recycling program be put in place, school districts, cities and even counties could continue to use Styrofoam.

The bill is part of an ongoing effort by Lowenthal and others to improve California's waterways, storm drains and the conditions of marine life. Legislators in support of the bill believe Styrofoam can cause harm to marine animals that ingest the product or choke on it. They also believe plastic foam clogs waterways and drains, causing blockages to and from water sources throughout the state.

But legislators are targeting the wrong product, according to Ron Crookham, the plant's manager. Block molding — a packaging product that often breaks off into tiny bulbs that is not recyclable — is the culprit state legislators should be targeting.

"Styrofoam is not the problem — it breaks off in chunks and is 100 percent recyclable," he said. "When people litter and throw block molding into the water, the fish eat it. Styrofoam just floats. And those paper cups with wax coating? They aren't recyclable, but they sink to the bottom of a river or ocean so no one sees the damage."

While some state legislators see the extinction of Styrofoam as a good thing, Lodi residents fear the job losses resulting from a possible plant shutdown could seriously hurt the community.

In fact, should legislators outlaw the use of Styrofoam in California, it could wind up costing the state more money in the end because it could run more businesses out of the state, according to Pat Patrick, president and CEO of Lodi's Chamber of Commerce.

"We're all for changing people's negative behavior when it comes to disposing of trash, but let's not put people out of work, especially right now, just because some people just don't dispose properly of their trash. We're attacking this problem on the wrong end," Patrick said.

Currently, Dart Container supplies major companies both locally and nationally, including Walmart and Jamba Juice. In Lodi, stores and restaurants including Angelo's Mexican Restaurant on North School Street, De Vinci's Delicatessen & Catering on South Church Street, and Yen Ching Chinese Restaurant on West Kettleman Avenue all use Dart products.

"(Dart) containers hold the product the best and they are by far the most affordable for us," said Trevor Phillips, owner of De Vinci's. "As the owner of a small business, I tell you, every little penny counts."

Contact reporter Katie Nelson at katien@lodinews.com.

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  • Joanne Bobin posted at 7:29 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4308

    I suppose those who are anti-regulation of products that are harmful to the human race and the environment were also upset when the Johns-Manville plants, including one in Stockton, were shut down.

    Imagine, all those people losing their jobs just because asbestos was found to be dangerous.

    Oh, that's right, better to keep working and then drop dead on the job from the toxic mess you are manufacturing.

    Pat Patrick "just because some people don't properly dispose of their trash..." ridiculous - the same could be said for the ground water clean-up we're now paying for with every monthly COL bill despite years of litigation, crooked law-firms, COL mismanagement and irresponsibility by local companies who caused the problem to begin with. But I suppose those who want to save 90 jobs will justify anything for a buck.

    Dart could have developed some sort of synergistic industry and planned for the future instead of clinging to the belief that styrofoam would be around forever (other than the stuff in landfills and elsewhere that takes a million years to break down).

  • Kevin Paglia posted at 12:30 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Kevin Paglia Posts: 1880

    I stated my opinion on this when there was a letter to the editor on the subject. But let me restate one main point: If there was a chemical plant that dumped the same levels of toxins into our ground water as Dart does spread out they would have been shutdown long ago. With 20 years of warnings that this stuff was bad for the environment a smart business would have seen this kind of legislation coming and made changes to be ahead of it. But, no, instead the toxins are allowed to flow freely into the environment.

  • Doug Chaney posted at 12:20 pm on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Doug Chaney Posts: 1232

    Styrofoam never completely breaks down and ends up as a pollutant in the air we breathe.

  • Kim Parigoris posted at 9:54 am on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 469

    I guess you have more faith than I do, Darrell...New York State hit this wall years ago and it is still on a decline. It started in the 60's with all the entitlement programs and the people moving up from the South. Huge tax increases to fund all of this liberal agenda. Metropolitan areas still do well, but upstate New York is devastated- I have a stepson that is moving from there to North Carolina who never thought he would leave New York State. He just can't take it anymore with the high taxes, no jobs, etc. But does he get involved in the political process? No- and I tell him that unless they do, this progressive cancer will just follow them everywhere..just a matter of time. So I hope that you are right about California, but if this redistricting sticks and Lodi stays in the Bay Area, any slight bit of common sense conservatism will be totally drowned out, and the Democrats will have it all on their heads- you are right about that!

  • Darrell Baumbach posted at 8:31 am on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Darrell Baumbach Posts: 9403

    Kim... maybe the solution is to encourage the quick demise of California by voting for more Democrats and their legislation. California's economy is going down... its just a matter of time. Just like it is stated that a drunk has to hit bottom before they rehabilitate, so does California. The quickest way to hit bottom is to support the Democrats. Since it is the Democrats that are the problem, let them take responsibility for the results of their actions. I say get out of their way and let them do whatever they want... When unemployment reaches 30% or more, maybe the people will catch on...maybe...
    Texas and other business friendly states will reap the benefits of our decisions, but someday the pendulum will swing.

  • Kim Parigoris posted at 7:36 am on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 469

    Just keep voting for those Democrats...It just passed the Assembly Committee and got 6 Ayes and 3 Noes...hhhmmm, wonder who voted Aye- straight down party lines..6 Aye Democrat votes,, and 3 Republican Noe votes. It has already passed the Senate and will probably pass in the Assembly. You can look at any of these bills and almost 100% of the time, see who voted Aye and who voted Noe...
    Higher taxes and more regulation? Democrats. Relaxing regulations and giving business incentives? Republicans. Don't believe me? just go to leginfo.ca.gov
    and do your own research. And I am NOT a strong Republican, I just happen to be a member of the lesser of 2 evils..

  • Kim Parigoris posted at 7:06 am on Thu, Jun 30, 2011.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 469

    This is only one of the many many proposed legislative actions our lawmakers are brewing up. Get involved in this process, folks! Sacramento lawmakers have proposed over 2500 new bills this year alone, and some of them are real doosies. Take the fitted sheets bill. This bill would require that hotel rooms no longer have 2 flat sheets on the beds..the bottom one has to be fitted. Hotels have estimated this to cost them in the millions...fitted are sheets are not only more expensive, the elastic wears out quickly and they have to be replaced very frequently. And guess who gets to enforce this criminal behavior? Already financially strapped cities and municipalities. Texas lawmakers meet once every 2 years...sounds like a good plan for California. They have WAY too much idle time on their hands.
    You know the old saying..If you don't get involved, then don't complain about the consequences.. California is a Nanny State on steroids and will keep rolling along until WE put the brakes on. And Businesss can't breathe with all the regulation and restrictions...



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