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Calif. city closer to ban on foam packaging

MONTEREY Calif. The Monterey City Council is expected on Tuesday to approve the second reading of an ordinance banning the use of polystyrene foam packaging in restaurants, catering trucks, grocery stores and other prepared-food outlets. The law would take effect six months later.

The measure approved Feb. 3, but subject to two public readings before becoming law, bans polystyrene foam and requires the use of recyclable, biodegradable or compostable packaging. Foods packaged outside of the city, but sold in the city, are exempt, except for those slated for use during special events.

Representatives of the California Restaurant Association said they earlier successfully lobbied the council to deem as environmentally acceptable other plastic products coded with recycling symbols Nos. 1-5. They said the CRA successfully lobbied to exempt from the ban polystyrene straws, cup lids and cutlery.

Amalia Chamorro, director of local government affairs for the Sacramento, Calif.-based CRA, said that while hard polystyrene containers are not banned, the city advises restaurants not to switch from polystyrene foam to hard polystyrene. Instead, restaurants must switch from foam to the approved recyclable, biodegradable or compostable products, she indicated.

The ordinance includes a one-year affordability exemption for products other than foam that do not meet the requirements listed in the law, Chamorro said. She said violators would be subject to citations and fines, but the city may allow violators to submit, in lieu of a fine, receipts demonstrating the purchase of acceptable products after the citation date.

Wording in the ordinance indicates that the council is banning polystyrene foam because it does not biodegrade on its own and is not yet economically viable to recycle in the city and, as such, poses a threat to the environment of the nearby Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. A solid waste, such as polystyrene foam, that does not biodegrade and is not recyclable poses an “acute problem” for any environmentally or financially responsible solid-waste management program and therefore should be banned, the ordinance's wording also suggests.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].

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