The City of Redwood City is considering a ban on polystyrene food service containers, to correspond with a similar prohibition implemented by San Mateo County last summer. On the City Council’s April 9th agenda is the introduction of an ordinance which would prohibit the use of polystyrene-based food containers. If approved by the Council, the item would then be subject to a public hearing, tentatively scheduled for May 7th. The City’s action would adopt the County’s ordinance, by reference.
The proposed ban would not be implemented until January 1, 2013, allowing plenty of time for businesses to learn about their options, and transition to non-polystyrene containers. However, businesses will be encouraged to voluntarily implement the ban prior to 2013, and those that do so would be recognized by the City Council as “early adopters” and leaders in helping to reduce the volume of this pollutant in our environment. Adopting an ordinance banning the use of polystyrene will also help the City meet certain conditions of its Municipal Regional (storm water) Permit, related to reductions in trash loading in the City’s storm drain system.
Banned items are single-use disposable products used in restaurants and the food service industry for serving and transporting prepared, ready-to-consume food and beverages including plates, bowls, trays, and hinged or lidded containers (“clamshells”), but excluding disposable packaging for unprepared food.
Polystyrene is often referred to by its Dow Chemical trademark “Styrofoam.” It is a petroleum-based, lightweight plastic material commonly used by retail food vendors for disposable take-out purposes. Polystyrene has been identified as an environmental pollutant in part because it is non-biodegradable and generally non-recyclable and non-reusable. Various state and federal agencies indicate that polystyrene persists in the environment indefinitely without breaking down and consequently is showing up on roads, waterways, and the ocean. In addition to San Mateo County, a number of other cities on the peninsula, including Burlingame, Half Moon Bay, Foster City, San Bruno, Pacifica, South San Francisco, and Millbrae, have implanted similar ordinances.
If approved by the City Council, San Mateo County would work with Redwood City to publicize the impending implementation, and assist in outreach and education to the affected businesses. While every opportunity will be provided for businesses to comply, San Mateo County’s Environmental Health Division would enforce the ordinance and may issue fines for violations, which would be earmarked for use to supplement outreach and education around polystyrene.