City officials consider ban on polystyrene
June 16, 2009
By Warren Kagarise
City officials could ban polystyrene food containers, ending the use of Styrofoam to-go boxes early next year. A proposed ban under review by officials said the material has limited usefulness, but can linger in landfills for centuries.
Legislation to ban polystyrene food packaging was scheduled to go to the City Council for the first time June 15, after The Press’ deadline. Council members were expected to refer the bill to the Council Sustainability Committee for further discussion. The committee was set to discuss the bill June 16. If the committee OKs the bill, the measure would return to the full council for approval, likely sometime this summer.
With the proposed ordinance, officials will consider spending city money to educate business owners about the proposed ordinance and engage them through an outreach campaign.
City Resource Conservation Office Manager David Fujimoto said Seattle and Portland have similar polystyrene bans. He said city officials would work to inform business owners about the change if the council enacts the ban.
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.
The proposed legislation does not specify how the ban would be enforced. The bill directs city staffers to focus on outreach and education in the months leading up to the ban.
Some products — such as prepackaged soups and foods purchased in prepackaged multiple quantities — would be exempt from the ban.
Polystyrene opponents say food containers made from the material should be banned, because discarded polystyrene persists as litter and in landfills. Recycling facilities in Washington are not set up to handle polystyrene.
“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.”
Officials have enacted measures to prevent waste and encourage recycling to steer more than 65 percent of trash away from the county Cedar Hills Regional Landfill, according to city figures.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.