New City Council takes shape

January 12, 2010

As family members watched and cameras flashed, Tola Marts and Mark Mullet joined the City Council last week. Read more

New members join City Council; John Traeger elected council president

January 6, 2010

NEW — 11:35 a.m. Jan. 6, 2010

As family members watched and cameras flashed, Tola Marts and Mark Mullet joined the City Council on Monday.

The new councilmen took the oath of office before a packed council chamber, where the audience included families, political supporters, former Councilman David Kappler and County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, whose district includes Issaquah.

Deputy City Clerk Randy Reed administered oaths to the new councilmen, as well as incumbents Mayor Ava Frisinger and councilwomen Eileen Barber and Maureen McCarry. The terms end Dec. 31, 2013.

“This is a wonderful start to 2010,” Frisinger said.

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Polystyrene ban will begin next October

November 24, 2009

Issaquah will become the first Eastside city to ban polystyrene food containers, when Styrofoam takeout boxes and plastic foam cups are outlawed next October. Businesses will be required to switch to compostable or recyclable — and pricier — containers and utensils by May 2011.

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Press Editorial

September 8, 2009

Baby steps called for in Styrofoam ban

By now you’ve probably read about the city’s initial proposal to ban the use of polystyrene — better known as Styrofoam — food containers in Issaquah. This could include everything from takeout food containers to the little tray that holds tonight’s steak. Read more

Join discussion about polystyrene ban tonight

August 18, 2009

NEW — 11:45 a.m. Aug. 18, 2009

Issaquah officials will hear from Seattle Public Utilities staffers tonight about Seattle’s ban on polystyrene food containers. Issaquah City Council members are considering a similar measure.

Join officials and business leaders tonight as they discuss the proposal at a Council Sustainability Committee meeting. The panel meets at 5:30 p.m. in the Pickering Room of City Hall Northwest, 1775 12th Ave. N.W.

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City considers ban on Styrofoam

June 23, 2009

By Warren Kagarise
Stop by XXX Rootbeer Drive-in for a to-go root beer, and the signature drink will be served in a plastic foam cup — for now. Employees at the drive-in and many other Issaquah restaurants could be forced to swap Styrofoam and other polystyrene containers for eco-friendly materials.
Drive-in owner Jose Enciso said his restaurant uses polystyrene products because they cost less than alternatives. As the City Council considers a ban on Styrofoam to-go boxes and other food containers made from eco-unfriendly polystyrene, Enciso and other business leaders said the ban could mean higher prices on the menu.
But Enciso said he was comfortable with the switch for environmental reasons.
“Whatever it takes to help out the environment,” he said. “We’re ready.”
A proposed ban would outlaw polystyrene food packaging — a measure that would impact restaurants like XXX, grocers and other food sellers. Critics said the material lingers in landfills long after Styrofoam trays and cups are tossed into the trash. Polystyrene is expensive to recycle, too.
Councilman Joshua Schaer modeled the legislation on polystyrene bans in Seattle, Portland and several California cities.
“There may be a little resistance now, but I’m sure — given the success of this in much, much larger cities than Issaquah — it seems to me that we can move in the right direction,” he said.
Schaer and other Council Sustainability Committee members met June 16 to discuss the proposed ban.
Officials have questions about safe alternatives to polystyrene and how the ban would impact restaurants already grappling with consumers dining out less in the down economy.
“You know, these packages are used to serve takeout or in restaurants, and they typically last for a few minutes in terms of any use,” Schaer said. “The reality is, while we may only see them for a few minutes, the landfill and the environment sees them for tens of thousands of years.”
Even Schaer acknowledged not all compostable and recyclable alternatives are as durable as polystyrene. Schaer, a lawyer, works at a firm in downtown Seattle. He recalled buying lunch at a Pakistani restaurant near his office soon after the Seattle ban went into effect.
“They were using a corn-based container that was extremely hot and the curry was starting to melt through the bottom of it,” Schaer said. “That went on for a few weeks and I think people started complaining to the owner, because he’s at the counter all the time. You know, they made a switch.”
Schaer said the new container type survived the several-block walk to his office.
Though the draft ordinance declared the ban would be effective Jan. 1, officials said a ban — if approved — would go into effect much later. Sustainability Committee members will review the measure again next month.
Josh McDonald, government affairs coordinator for the Washington Restaurant Association, said restaurateurs would need time to prepare. He said they are also reluctant to use compostable and recyclable alternatives, because polystyrene is cheaper. In turn, restaurateurs would pass the cost along to diners.
“Anytime you take steps to increase costs, it has a negative effect on us,” McDonald said. “That said, a lot of our restaurants, a lot of our folks, are voluntarily moving in this direction and doing what they can and doing their part to move toward more sustainable [practices].”
City Resource Conservation Office Manager David Fujimoto said his staff planned for education and outreach efforts if the City Council bans polystyrene packaging. Fujimoto said 131 of the 800 or so businesses in Issaquah serve or sell food — 42 fast food outlets, 61 full-service restaurants and 28 stores.
Holly Chisa, Washington lobbyist for the Northwest Grocery Association, said her organization was working with more than 100 stores impacted by the Seattle ban to find products to meet the criteria outlined in the city’s ordinance.
Seattle officials outlawed polystyrene food containers last year. The ban took effect in January; next year, it will expand to include plastic containers and utensils.
Chisa said her No. 1 concern was the polystyrene trays used to package raw meat. Trays made from cardboard, and sugar and corn derivatives pose challenges. For instance, blood and other liquids seep through cardboard, while sugar and corn products could provide food sources for harmful bacteria.
“For a grocery store, the single most paramount concern we have is food safety,” Chisa said.
Products like prepackaged soups would already be exempt from the proposed ban. Schaer and other committee members did not rule out additional exemptions to the ordinance.
“For instance, if you said, ‘Hey, we own this business in Issaquah and there are simply no compostable or recyclable lids that we can use that are safe for our customers,’ then the city would take a look at that,” Schaer said.
Greater Issaquah Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Bott talked with Issaquah restaurateurs before the meeting. Bott said reactions to the proposed ban were mixed. He said officials should seek input from business and restaurant owners as they rework the ordinance.
“We would just ask for some time to get the word out, to get input and then come back with something that would hopefully be of value to this community,” Bott said.
Besides food safety, industry lobbyists raised concerns about whether alternative materials could hold up to hot food. Chisa echoed Schaer when she said some compostable and recyclable containers are not as tough as the real deal.
“Soup will break down that container faster than anything I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Reach Reporter Warren Kagarise at 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.
Jose Enciso Jr. fills Styrofoam cups at XXX Rootbeer in Issaquah. By Adam Eschbach

Jose Enciso Jr. fills Styrofoam cups at XXX Rootbeer in Issaquah. By Adam Eschbach

Stop by XXX Rootbeer Drive-in for a to-go root beer, and the signature drink will be served in a plastic foam cup — for now. Employees at the drive-in and many other Issaquah restaurants could be forced to swap Styrofoam and other polystyrene containers for eco-friendly materials.

Drive-in owner Jose Enciso said his restaurant uses polystyrene products because they cost less than alternatives. As the City Council considers a ban on Styrofoam to-go boxes and other food containers made from eco-unfriendly polystyrene, Enciso and other business leaders said the ban could mean higher prices on the menu.

But Enciso said he was comfortable with the switch for environmental reasons. Read more

Lobbyists tell city officials polystyrene ban could harm businesses

June 16, 2009

NEW — 9:10 p.m. June 16, 2009

City officials agreed tonight to work alongside business owners as the City Council considers a ban on Styrofoam to-go boxes and other food containers made from eco-unfriendly polystyrene.

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.

But officials also raised questions about safe alternatives to polystyrene and how the ban would impact restaurants already grappling with consumers dining out less in the down economy. Council Sustainability Committee members met tonight to discuss the proposed ban.

“You know, these packages are used to serve takeout or in restaurants, and they typically last for a few minutes in terms of any use,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said. “The reality is, while we may only see them for a few minutes, the landfill and the environment sees them for tens of thousands of years.”

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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 wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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. Read more

Officials could ban polystyrene food packaging

June 14, 2009

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.

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Joan Probala to run for City Council

March 2, 2009

Joan Probala

Joan Probala

Saying she wants to provide a voice for residents of her South Cove neighborhood, real estate agent Joan Probala announced her candidacy for the City Council last week.

In her campaign announcement, Probala said she wants to focus on economic vitality, infrastructure needs and updates to the subarea plan — the growth strategy for key Issaquah neighborhoods. Read more

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