Two more northern California cities have banned the use of polystyrene takeout food-service packaging, but one of the bans only applies to major city events.
Pacifica, a coastal town of nearly 40,000 people located between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, voted unanimously Nov. 9 to bar all city restaurants, food vendors and grocery stores from using any type of PS food-serviceware for prepared foods, effective Jan. 1.
A day later, San Jose banned the use of PS in takeout and beverage containers at events of more than 1,000 people that are held on city property, effective May 1. That San Jose measure also requires vendors at those events to use PET beverage containers for drinks that are 7 ounces and larger, and paper cups for drinks that hold less than 7 ounces of liquid.
The Pacifica ban applies to all PS containers, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, cups, lids, straws, forks, spoons, knives and any other food-service item designed for one-time or non-durable use. It applies to prepared foods as well as leftovers from partially consumed meals.
The law further mandates that vendors must use biodegradable, compostable, reusable or recyclable food-serviceware, and it encourages vendors to use reusable food-service packaging for foods consumed on premises. Ice chests and coolers are exempt from the ban.
Altogether, 26 California towns and two counties have banned PS takeout packaging, most of them in northern California from the Monterey area to just north of San Francisco. Five cities and one county have banned the use of PS takeout packaging at city facilities or events.
On the East Coast, Boston is considering a proposal introduced last month to ban PS takeout packaging at food-service establishments that have more than 5,000 square feet or more than five different locations in the city.
The bans and proposed bans on PS takeout packaging and food-serviceware continue to escalate, despite an increasing number of corporate initiatives to recycle PS food packaging.
* Dart Container Corp. earlier this month opened a drop-off location in Tumwater, Wash., for consumers to recycle cups, takeout containers, egg cartons and molded electronics packaging. It is Dart's ninth such location in the U.S., and, ironically, located 50 miles south of Seattle, where a ban on PS food-service packaging goes into effect July 1. In October, Dart opened a drop-off location in Horse Cave, Ky., near Mammoth Cave National Park.
* Insurance company Aflac Inc. purchased a 1-ton densifier earlier this month to compact PS cups used at its claims processing and call center in Columbus, Ga. The foam recycling machine can compact 8,000 foam cups into 15-inch-tall, 40-pound blocks that will be shipped to Dart's headquarters location in Michigan for recycling.
* Family-owned seafood processor and distributor Pacific Seafood, based in Clackamas, Ore., near Portland, recycles 300,000 pounds of PS boxes annually, using a densifier to condense 50 containers used for transporting seafood into a 2-pound PS block. The PS is recycled into beads used for making picture frames and moldings.
Kurt Mitchell, operations manager for Pacific Seafood's Northwest operations, said the company recovered its investment for the cost of the machine and the shed, where it stores the densifier, in 17 months. He said the company has eliminated landfill and hauling costs for the PS containers, and has been able to sell the blocks of compacted PS for 15-18 cents a pound. The initiative began in May 2008.
* In September, Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Ill., leased a densifier from Dart so the school could recycle about 700,000 PS cups, plates and containers from its two campuses. The densifier cost the school roughly half of what it would cost it annually to haul that volume of PS packaging from its campus.
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