City Council votes to ban Styrofoam food packaging next year

November 16, 2009

UPDATED — 1:20 p.m. Nov. 17, 2009

Issaquah joined Seattle, Portland and other eco-conscious cities Monday night when the City Council banned polystyrene takeout containers and other food packaging made from the material. The ban will go into effect in October 2010; restaurants, grocers, public schools and other food sellers will be required to comply by May 2011.

Polystyrene — also known under the trademark Styrofoam — is a popular option at restaurants and grocers because the material is cheaper and hardier than compostable alternatives.

Critics said the polystyrene lingers in landfills long after Styrofoam trays and cups are tossed into the trash. The material is expensive to recycle as well.

City Council members voted 6-1 to approve the ban. Councilman Joshua Schaer proposed the legislation in June. Officials huddled with restaurateurs, industry representatives, business owners and environmentalists to reach the final bill.

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Bring comments to meeting tonight as City Council decides food-packaging ordinance

November 16, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. Nov. 16, 2009

After months of discussion and input from industry groups, the City Council is set to vote on a proposed polystyrene food-packaging ban tonight. The measure would outlaw polystyrene — also known under the trademark Styrofoam — at restaurants, grocers and other food sellers.

Bring comments about the proposed legislation to the council meeting. The council meets 7:30 p.m. at City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way.

If enacted, the ban would take effect in October 2010. In certain cases — such as the polystyrene trays used to package raw meat — exemptions to the ban will be allowed until May 2011. Products, such as pre-packaged soups, would be exempt from the ban. Moreover, public schools would be exempt from the ban until May 2011.

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Maureen McCarry touts experience as she seeks re-election

October 6, 2009

Maureen McCarry

Maureen McCarry

From efforts to build roads, to adding social services, to making city programs more eco-friendly, Maureen McCarry is immersed in details of city projects large and small. As she runs for a second full City Council term, McCarry threads information about municipal programs into conversations about her campaign.

McCarry said she is convinced Issaquah will improve as the years unfold, but she said leadership — her leadership — would be essential in the next four years as city staffers take on a docket that includes construction of a hospital in the Issaquah Highlands and a new roadway to link north and south Issaquah. Read more

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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Officials, restaurateurs discuss polystyrene alternatives

August 4, 2009

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. Read more

Bring questions about compostable packaging to forum Tuesday

July 27, 2009

NEW — 6 a.m. July 27, 2009

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

The forum will not deal with the proposed ban. Instead it will focus on compostable food packaging.

City and chamber leaders are hosting a Business Information Forum from 9-11 a.m. Tuesday at Pickering Barn, 1730 10th Ave. N.W.

The event will include a panel of local business leaders who have utilized such packaging, a presentation from Waste Management and Cedar Grove Organics about food recycling services available to Issaquah businesses and an open house in which participants can talk with packaging vendors about the cost and use of their products.

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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.”

Read more

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

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