Though Redwood City environmentalists herald the city council’s Styrofoam ban as an obvious move, some business owners are concerned about the impact on their budgets and services.
To address these residents, the city held a town hall style meeting Wednesday afternoon with food service establishments, discussing details of the upcoming ban on polystyrene, more commonly known as styrofoam, foodware.
The ordinance, by the city council, bans all vendors, including fast-food establishments and food trucks, from using polystyrene products. The ordinance takes effect January 1, 2013.
Redwood City Spokesperson Malcolm Smith and San Mateo County Public Health Director Dean Peterson hosted the meeting to answer questions from the public.
According to Smith, exemptions will be allowed in the case that the polystyrene containers are necessary and no viable alternatives can be found.
In addition, he said that vendors will be able to exhaust their existing supplies of containers, and will not be forced to throw them out.
This is good news for Nora Decaro, Food Service Director at the .
Decaro says the district still has many ‘clam shell’ salad containers that are banned, but which they will be allowed to use.
The most difficult part of the ordinance, Decaro noted, is finding a cost effective alternative to inexpensive polystyrene products.
To address the cost issue, Smith has provided a list of 67 vendors in the area selling eco-friendly alternatives to polystyrene.
In addition, Smith says that as more cities throughout the state ban polystyrene products, the alternatives will become less expensive due to economies of scale.
The city is also encouraging restaurants to charge a “take out fee” to cover the cost of the new materials needed for take-out customers and provide reusable dished cups for “eat-in” customers.
Fines for noncompliance will range from $100 to $500 depending on how many violations an establishment has.
As part of the larger-scale move towards more eco-friendly consumer products, San Mateo County is also considering , which, if supported by the Board of Supervisors, would likely also be subsequently approved by city councils and take effect throughout the county next year.
The proposed plastic bag ban would be supplemented by a mandatory minimum 10 cent charge for the use of paper bags.
Though some may regard these moves as leading towards a “nanny state," Public Health Director Dean Peterson says these ordinances represent a duty peninsula communities have given their location nestled between the bay and the ocean.
“We owe it to ourselves to be a little bit more environmentally conscious,” he said.
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