The city of Davis is looking to join a growing list of jurisdictions prohibiting the use of polystyrene foam containers for food and beverages served in the city.
The proposed ban on polystyrene foam – which people commonly refer to the by the trademark name Styrofoam – is part of an ongoing effort to reduce waste in the city, according to a news release posted on the city’s website. Workshops will be held Wednesday and Thursday to discuss an ordinance that would require all items for serving food and beverages to be reusable, recyclable or compostable. The City Council is tentatively scheduled to review the proposed ordinance at its April 18 meeting.
Polystyrene foam is the only material commonly used as food and beverage packaging that is not recyclable under the city’s current recycling program.
Davis instituted an organics program last year that allows residents to deposit food-soiled paper containers – including milk cartons, paper plates and cups, and paper take-out food cartons – along with food scraps and yard trimmings, in curbside carts for weekly collection. Plastic items such as coffee cup lids, plastic straws, plastic utensils and non-foam plastic cups can be disposed of in recycling carts.
The proposed ordinance would apply to any store, restaurant, delicatessen, catering vehicle, school, nonprofit group or other organization, group or individual that regularly provides food for public consumption on or off its premises, according to the news release. The ordinance would cover plates, cups, bowls, take-out food clamshells and other products used to serve food or beverages.
“Because all food service businesses in Davis are part of our citywide composting and recycling program, switching to them (polystyrene alternatives) should be straightforward and enable us to divert a greater proportion of waste products from the landfill,” Mayor Robb Davis said in the news release.
Calls to several Davis restaurants found that many already use containers that would comply with the ordinance.
Jim Edlund, owner of Redrum Burger for more than 20 years, said the restaurant has always used paper or cardboard packaging. Beach Hut Deli uses plastic wrap and solid plastic cups, said manager Hope Morgan, and Crepeville Restaurant uses paper or recyclable plastic containers, according to employee Simon Ford.
Christian Marquez, manager and owner of Taqueria Guadalajara Grill, said he uses paper cups and bags. He had switched from Styrofoam to recyclable plastic plates, but went back to Stryofoam after customers expressed a preference for it. Marquez said he would have to charge a little more for the recyclable plastic plates because they are more expensive, but he has no objection to abandoning the foam plastic.
“It’s a good thing to be environmentally friendly,” Marquez said, adding that it is just a matter of educating customers.
Jennifer Gilbert, the city’s conservation coordinator, said in an email that the ordinance would not apply to products sold in retail stores – such as foam plates or cups – or used for packaging uncooked and unprepared foods, such as raw eggs in foam cartons or raw meat on plastic foam trays. It also would not apply to food or beverages that are not packaged in Davis, such as ready-to-eat food products made and packaged outside the city.
Ninety-nine California cities or counties have adopted ordinances restricting the use of polystyrene, according to the Californians Against Waste website. Twelve of the ordinances apply only to government facilities, and 19 include the retail sale of products, according to the organization.
Last year, San Francisco adopted an ordinance banning the sale of any product made of polystyrene. It includes not only take-out food containers but also items such as foam “peanuts” used as packing materials, foam dock floats, mooring buoys and pool toys.
Gilbert said Davis’ proposed ordinance is somewhat similar to ordinances in Alameda County and the cities of Albany and Monterey. As currently written, the ordinance, if adopted, would take effect July 1, she said.
Businesses will have an opportunity to discuss Davis’ proposed ordinance and provide comment during the workshops. The first is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday in the City Hall conference room, 23 Russell Blvd., and the second is set for 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Hunt Boyer Building conference toom, 604 Second St.