Brookline, Mass., a town of roughly 60,000 people just west of Boston, has passed a ban on PS-based food and beverage containers as well as a limited ban on single-use plastic bags.
The single-use plastic bag ban applies to bags handed out by large supermarkets and retailers, and pharmacies with two or more locations with common ownership. The polystyrene ban prohibits the use anywhere in the city of PS food and beverage containers.
The bans were passed a day apart, with the plastic bag ban adopted Nov. 14 by a vote of 142-53 and the PS ban by a vote of 169-27 on Nov. 13. Both bans will go into effect Dec. 1, 2013.
In addition, Amherst, Mass. — a town of 40,000 just north of Springfield — has a vote scheduled Nov. 19 to ban the use of disposable expanded PS food-serviceware, effective July 1, 2013.
The proposed ban in Amherst would include plates, cups, bowls, trays and hinged or lidded containers, but would not apply to straws, cups or utensils, or to single-use disposable EPS packaging used for uncooked foods such as poultry, meat or fish.
The Brookline PS law does not have an exemption for trays for packaging uncooked meat, fish or poultry, as Amherst has proposed. Many of the PS bans in California and the PS ban in Great Barrington, Mass., near the New York border, have such exemptions.
In that respect, the Brookline law more closely aligns with PS bans in Nantucket, Mass., and Freeport, Maine. Those communities all adopted their bans in 1990.
An exemption for uncooked meat, fish and poultry PS trays had been recommended by the Brookline Board of Selectmen and the town's advisory committee. Also rejected was an amendment to have the ban apply only to EPS food-serviceware — which is the approach most U.S. communities that have passed bans have taken.
The Brookline ban applies to single-use plastic checkout bags, unless the bags are compostable or marine-degradable. The ban applies to supermarkets with sales over $1 million, pharmacies with two city locations under the same ownership, and retailers with either 2,500 square feet of space or three city locations with that much combined space or more.
There is an exemption for plastic bags used to package produce.
The initial petition to ban PS was filed by Brookline town member and advisory committee member Nancy Heller. Heller had cited health concerns, the availability of alternative products and the difficulty in recycling PS containers as the reasons why they should be banned.
Her petition said residents could recycle PS only twice a year, on specified drop-off days, at the city's Department of Public Works facilities, and that from there, it was transported to a facility in Rhode Island where it was densified and shipped overseas to China or India.
Separately, Clint Richmond, a Brookline town meeting member who is on the town's Solid Waste Advisory Committee, told the committee the rigid PS that goes to Brookline's recycling center in Avon, Mass., is not recycled, but incinerated.
The majority of bans in the U.S. on PS takeout containers are in California, where 52 cities have citywide PS takeout packaging bans, and five counties have PS bans applying to unincorporated areas of those counties.
Also, 11 cities and counties in California have PS bans that apply only to government facilities and events.
Seattle and Issaquah, Wash., and Portland, Ore., also have PS bans.
Altogether, 85 U.S. communities have plastic bags bans, including three of the 14 largest and five of the 29 largest cities in the United States: San Francisco and San Jose, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Seattle; and Portland, Ore.
In addition, Los Angeles — the nation's second-largest city, with a population of 4 million — this summer set in motion a plan to ban single-use plastic bags.
More than half of the plastic bag bans in the United States — 47 — have been enacted this year. In addition, three communities — Aspen, Colo.; Washington, D.C.; and Montgomery County, Md. — have fees on plastic carryout bags, with Boulder set to become the fourth after a second vote Nov. 15.