City Quells Styrofoam Ban Concerns

The city hosted a meeting responding to concerns of restaurant owners over the upcoming polystyrene ban; also on the table was discussion of a proposed ban on plastic bags.

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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Michael Craig August 30, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Th PC Police have struck again. Maybe they would be so kind to pay all the merchants the difference in cost for recyclable containers? There is a reason merchants use them-they are cheaper! Is it the merchants fault that guests are not recycling them? Maybe the people complaining about it can go through the trash and start recycling the styrofoam. Studies have show a negligible difference in landfill of styrofoam containers and plastc bags after these ordinances are passed so other than making PC Police feel good-what are we really doing other than inconveniencing people and business owners? I recycle all my plastic bags. Now I can't use them because others don't? Plastic bags and styrofoam containers will never completely go away unless someone really does invent a truly more cost effective solution. Until then-it will only hurt small business owners and grandma's who use the free plastic bags from the grocery stores to throw away their garbage. Explain to me what you say to grandma on a fixed income who has never bought a trash bag why she has to buy them now?
Reality Check August 30, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Ohhhh, poor baby. Cry us a river, why don't you? We should compensate everyone who used to burn trash in their backyard because it was cheaper too? And everyone who used to dump used motor oil and batteries on the side of the road (hey, it's cheaper that way!). Oh, and "they" should pay everyone who used to enjoy using the CFCs and other environmentally-harmful refrigerants and chemicals that have been phased out ... because many of those were cheaper too! Screw the environment, right? It's all about poor grandma, whatever will she do!? Sounds just like Romney and the insanely disconnected from science and reality TEA-party-controlled Republican party, eh?
Cindy Abbott August 30, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Grandma grew up not using plastic bags... she's probably pretty sharp and will figure it out how to get by again without them. Additionally, while we have been lulled into thinking our actions are responsible by placing items in the recycle bin (and this is indeed a better alternative than not recycling) if there is no market for this material they are not recycled. This is true of both styrofoam and thin film plastic bags.
Buck Shaw August 31, 2012 at 05:11 AM
The store sells the bags and what store do you go to that you can direct every item into its correct spot in the bag. Once the dumming down started there is a lack of skilled baggers these days just ask the National Champ "David Lettermen" about pro baggers....
Reality Check August 31, 2012 at 05:30 AM
Someone I know likes bagging her own stuff. I've never seen a store clerk turn her down. If you believe every item has "its correct spot", I suggest you do your own bagging or you'll never be happy. Nothing to do with the subject at hand, either.


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