Officials could ban polystyrene food packaging

June 14, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 10:30 a.m. June 14, 2009

City officials could ban polystyrene food packaging because they said the material has limited usefulness but can linger in landfills for centuries.

Legislation to ban polystyrene food packaging will go to the City Council for the first time Monday night. Council members are expected to refer the bill to the Council Sustainability Committee for further discussion. The committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Baxter Room of City Hall Northwest, 1775 12th Avenue N.W. Learn more about the proposed legislation at the committee meeting.

Councilman Joshua Schaer, the main proponent of the proposed ban, serves on the Sustainability Committee. If the committee OKs the bill, the measure will return to the full council for approval, likely sometime this summer.

If enacted, the ban would go into effect Jan. 1. The ordinance would prohibit the use of polystyrene food packaging from food service businesses and in city operations, according to the legislation. Instead, officials would encourage businesses to use recyclable or compostable food containers.

Some products — such as pre-packaged soups and foods purchased in prepackaged multiple quantities — would be exempt from the ban.

“There are currently no meaningful ways of recycling polystyrene based food packaging and it must be disposed of as garbage,” according to the bill. “Compostable and recyclable alternatives are available that serve the same purpose as nonrecyclable food service packaging.”

City Resource Conservation Office Manager David Fujimoto said Seattle has a similar polystyrene ban.

With the proposed ordinance, officials will consider spending up to $4,400 to educate business owners about the legislation and engage them through an outreach campaign.

City officials have enacted measures to prevent waste and encourage recycling in order to steer more than 65 percent of trash away from the county Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, according to city figures.

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