In a growing regional effort to reduce the use of non-biodegradable products, the city council voted last night to prohibit businesses from using single-use disposal styrofoam products starting January 2013.
The policy will align with the one San Mateo County approved in July 2011 as well as existing ordinances in local jurisdictions such as Milbrae, Foster City, Burlingame, Palo Alto and Half Moon Bay. Exceptions to the ban are styrofoam containers used to package unprepared food and styrofoam coolers and ice chests.
“It stays in the environment indefinitely without breaking down because it is generally non-recyclable and non-reusable,” said city spokesman Malcolm Smith.
North Fair Oaks resident Marianna Tubman aded that styrofoam can break into tiny pieces, but does not biodegrade. Other environmentalists saw this move .
The County’s Environmental Health Division will administer and enforce the ordinance and may issue fines for violations in an amount not to exceed $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation, and $500 for a third violation. Any fines collected would go to the county to use to supplement outreach and education around polystyrene.
Smith said that in addition to the ordinance, the staff has already begun a bilingual outreach plan to inform local businesses of the impending changes in the new year.
Some councilmembers’ initial concern was that businesses would not be able to rid themselves of the inventory soon enough. The January 1, 2013 date, however, would be adequate time, they said.
“The Bays and creeks have been suffering for far too long,” said Josh Sonnenfeld from Save the Bay. “San Mateo County is providing excellent framework for outreach and enforcement, and Redwood City’s ban would help foster regional policy.”
Speakers agreed that Redwood City’s adoption provides consistency across the region. Tubman said that she wouldn’t want to have one rule in North Fair Oaks, then a different rule in Redwood City after crossing Douglas Avenue.