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Styrofoam targeted

Surfing club at Newport Harbor High campaigns for ban of polystyrene foam at restaurants, gets thumbs-up from city councilwoman.

April 03, 2008|By Brianna Bailey

Like many of the other students in Scott Morlan’s surfing and environmental class at Newport Harbor High School, senior Brandon Guzman enjoys the mornings he and his classmates get to spend on the beach trying to catch waves — but the experience is often marred by the Styrofoam coffee cups and takeout boxes he sees bobbing in the water while paddling out.

“You can actually see Styrofoam floating around out there,” he said. “It’s such a big problem.”

Guzman and the other students from Morlan’s class want to start a citywide ban on polystyrene foam products at Newport eateries. The students gathered on the beach near Newport Pier this morning brandishing homemade signs detailing how non-biodegradable products harm local beaches.

“How can we let our local beaches that our city has so much pride in be covered with trash?” said Newport Harbor freshman Ariel Kusby. “It’s really a moral issue.”

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Morlan’s students have turned promoting the ban into more than just another homework assignment, he said. The students have gathered about 500 signatures from Newport Beach residents and businesses and have met with local environmental leaders and Newport Beach City Council members.

“If we can show leadership on the issue, then maybe there’s a chance,” he said.

Morlan’s students spend time practicing surfing, but also learn about environmental issues and have cleaned up litter from local beaches.

“Styrofoam is only 40 or 45 years old — but every bit of it is still around,” he said. “It wasn’t a problem when I was growing up.”

The class hopes to get the city council to consider passing a ban on the use of polystyrene foam products at local food vendors — and the teens may have a shot if they keep working, Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said. The councilwoman has given Morlan’s students a few pointers along the way.

“One of the things I have told them is to consider the political aspects of the issue,” Gardner said. “To just say that Styrofoam is bad doesn’t persuade the city council. They have to offer alternatives, and I think they’ve been doing their research and have done that.”

The students have researched alternative packing products such as paper products and cornstarch-based plastics, said Newport Harbor freshman Sheyna Holmes, who made a poster showcasing different types of biodegradable cups and boxes.

“These things cost a little more, but the prices will go down if more restaurants use them,” Holmes said.

The students have gained the support of local environmental groups for their work.

“It’s terrific because this isn’t just coming from environmental groups, it’s the kids, and it’s grassroots,” said Raymond Halowski, of the Newport Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “They think things should change, and they’re right.”


BRIANNA BAILEY may be reached at (714) 966-4625 or at brianna.bailey@latimes.com.

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