September 28, 2010
Sustainability takes leadership, balance
Issaquah is about to make history. The city, a longtime leader on sustainability issues, has followed Seattle and other large cities to change how restaurants and all other food sellers — from school lunchrooms to corporate cafeterias — serve food.
In many restaurants, diners noticed the change months ago, as innovative containers made from corn and paper replaced landfill-clogging options made from foam and plastic.
The alternative, the expanded polystyrene foam called Styrofoam, sits in landfills for years. The substance does not biodegrade and instead breaks into smaller and smaller pieces.
The staff in the city’s Resource Conservation Office deserves praise for reaching out to business owners in the months since the City Council mandated the shift to compostable food packaging.
The decision to outlaw polystyrene foam and require compostable containers at restaurants riled business owners a year ago. But in the months since the council approved the ordinance, the city has succeeded in a good-faith effort to reach out to the business community.
The package of exemptions approved by the council last week — for utensils and other items not quite ready for the composter — is another sign of goodwill. The council also extended the exemption deadline until July 2011.
The smooth rollout of the food-packaging ordinance means Issaquah is ready to take the next step toward sustainability.
We look forward to hearing from city leaders as they consider other bold measures to protect the environment and reduce the amount of waste sent to Cedar Hills Regional Landfill just south of Issaquah. In the months ahead, council members should lend serious consideration to ending the use of plastic bags and implementing a recycling program for polystyrene foam packaging.
City leaders deserve credit for the food-packaging accomplishment with sensitivity to business owners. Moving forward, the city must continue to balance environmental sustainability with economic sustainability.