Officials, restaurateurs discuss polystyrene alternatives

August 4, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

When Microsoft introduced eco-friendly utensils in company cafeterias, there was a problem with the new spoons: They warped in coffee, soup and other hot liquids.Managers at the software giant sent the supplier back to the drawing board. Not long after the spoon meltdown, sturdier, eco-friendly spoons arrived in Microsoft cafeterias.

Mark Freeman, Microsoft employee services senior manager, said the switch from traditional serving plates and utensils to “green” alternatives was calculated.

“When you’re dealing with the volumes we’re dealing with, it’s not easy to just change,” Freeman said.

Like Microsoft, dozens of Issaquah restaurants and food sellers could make the switch to eco-friendly packaging and utensils.

As the City Council considers a ban on Styrofoam takeout boxes and other polystyrene food containers, city and Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce brought together business owners and city staffers July 28 to discuss compostable and recyclable options.

City Economic Development Manager Dan Trimble said restaurateurs raised concerns about the price of compostable and recyclable products, as well as how the products would hold up.

Issues related to alternative packaging will be left for city Resource Conservation Office officials to address.

When elected officials began discussing the ban in June, city Resource Conservation Office Manager David Fujimoto said his staff planned for education and outreach efforts. The forum, at Pickering Barn, was the first such event. City staffers said 32 people attended.

Fujimoto said the city was working to keep restaurateurs and other business owners updated on the proposed polystyrene legislation.

A proposed ban would outlaw polystyrene food packaging. Critics said the material lingers in landfills long after Styrofoam trays and cups are tossed into the trash. Polystyrene is expensive to recycle, too.

City officials reached out to restaurateurs and other food vendors when they rolled out the legislation in June.

Staffers could send the legislation to the City Council for a decision by October, Fujimoto said.

Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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