Council seeks to fine-tune food-packaging ordinance

August 24, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Less than eight weeks before a landmark food-packaging ordinance goes into effect, city leaders plan to fine-tune the legislation to compensate for fast-melting compostable straws, foil-backed sandwich wrappers and other potential pitfalls.

In a milestone decision late last year, Issaquah became the first Eastside city to ban polystyrene food containers and instead require containers and utensils fashioned from compostable materials. The ban goes into effect Oct. 1 — but businesses can ask to be exempt until early next year.

“The goal is not to say, ‘Here’s the day — do it or else,’” Councilman Joshua Schaer said.

City Council members intend to fine-tune language related to straws and the foil-backed paper often used to wrap fast-food burgers and burritos.

The council could also extend the exemption deadline from May 2011 to next summer. Because the legislation applies to the Issaquah School District, city officials see little point in requiring schools to come into compliance about a month before the school year ends.

Councilman Mark Mullet, the Council Utilities, Technology & Environment Committee chairman, said he expects the group to discuss the revisions by mid-September. The updates could return to the full council for a decision by early October.

Schaer led the council push to pass the legislation, despite strong opposition from Councilwoman Eileen Barber and the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce.

Schaer said the upcoming revisions reflected a promise he made before the November council decision to work alongside restaurateurs and business owners to address concerns.

City Resource Conservation Coordinator Micah Bonkowski said the city had reached out to Seattle Public Utilities for guidance about the ordinance.

Seattle outlawed polystyrene, or Styrofoam containers, in January 2009 and extended the ban to disposable containers and utensils last month. The city has a yearlong exemption in place for straws, foil-backed paper, utensils and small cups.

Bonkowski said the Seattle ordinance helped chains, such as Issaquah-based Costco, untangle problems at Seattle stores — and make the process smoother in Issaquah because companies already addressed the issues in Seattle.

“Chances are, if you have a store in Issaquah, then you have a store in Seattle,” he said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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