Styrofoam containers may soon be banned

On March 6, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Breaking up is hard to do, and we may soon be saying goodbye to a familiar old friend, the polystyrene food container.

Breaking up is hard to do, and we may soon be saying goodbye to a familiar old friend, the polystyrene food container.

By Cathleen Twardzik

As you finish your scrumptious restaurant meal and ask for a box in which to transport your leftovers, your experience may be forever changed in Somerville because polystyrene containers (Styrofoam) may be replaced in the city.  For that matter, your morning coffee may soon be packaged differently, certainly not in a polystyrene cup.

A public hearing about a possible ban on the use polystyrene containers was recently held in the Aldermanic Chambers in Somerville City Hall with the Board of Aldermen.

The meeting was “on the order of” Alderman Rebekah L. Gewirtz, Alderman of Ward 6 in Somerville and Chairman of the Committee on Legislative Matters.

The purpose was to gather ideas and public opinion about the city’s proposed ordinance, which would ban the use of polystyrene containers to be used for take-out food in restaurants in the city.

The ban issue is ongoing, and a decision has not yet been made.

A City of Somerville ordinance defined some terms and gave some explanations, which pertain to the Styrofoam issue.

“‘Expanded Polystyrene’ means blown polystyrene – polystyrene that has been expanded or “blown” using a gaseous blowing agent into a solid foam – and expanded and extruded forms, which are thermoplastic petrochemical materials, utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by any number of techniques,” according to the ordinance.

“Food establishments are prohibited from dispensing prepared food to customers in disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene, city departments or agencies shall not purchase or use disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene while in the performance of official city duties, and individuals or entities shall not use disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene, in a city facility while performing under a city contract, lease, license, grant or other agreement.”

“The health department, inspectional services department or their designee shall have primary responsibility for enforcement of this provision and shall have authority to issue citations for violation(s).  The health department or its designee is authorized to establish regulations or administrative procedures and to take any and all actions reasonable and necessary to further the purposes of this section or to obtain compliance with this section, including but not limited to, inspecting any food establishment’s premises to verify compliance in accordance with applicable law.”

The ordinance’s terms include “disposable food service container,” which is a one-time-use disposable product that is used to transport or to serve prepared beverages or food, such as leftovers or take-out food.  Therefore, cups, bowls and plates would be included.

“Prepared food” refers to any beverage or food, which is prepared on the “food establishment premises” and which utilizes “any food preparation technique.”  However, uncooked or unprepared is not included in this ordinance. Finally, food establishment rounds out the included terms.

According to Starbucks at 260 Elm St. in Somerville, if the ban goes into effect, it will not affect their business because Styrofoam cups are not used at that eatery chain.

Dunkin’ Donuts in Somerville was unavailable for comment about the essential issue.

So, Somerville, get ready, possibly, to trade in the old restaurant take-out staple, polystyrene, for an alternative environmentally safe product.



9 Responses to “Styrofoam containers may soon be banned”

  1. j connelly says:

    City Hall/BOA should be working on more important issues. Like pay cut$ for the mayor/BOA in these “Tough fi$cal Times”. Time for Less Planning & Development for futuristic goals and instead more reality plans like getting a non yuppie supermarket into Winter Hill.

    Less eminent domain (indictments pending?) goals by Lego Development Corp and more realistic ideas without putting the $crew$ to the citizens who have lived here for decades. Charging Tax Exempt Tufts for all the costly free services they get from the taxpayers.

    Good idea but in these tough fiscal times bad timing for consumers in Somerville. Bad enough the politicians are ripping off your dollar$ for increased fee$ & taxe$. Now their getting involved in your private lives to help push you to bankruptcy by forcing businesses to $pend more money to change over the businesses day to day operations. Thus resulting in higher costs to the consumers. Going green is good but wiping people out financially is disgraceful. As long as “the envelope puhleez.z.z still gets delivered to the politicians by developer$/lobbyist$, etc., the politicians continue to care care less for the citizens they represent. Time to send them pink slips.

    [Anyone see 60 minutes on China about the thousands of new apartments bldgs built in early 2000s for future (now). Whole cities of these buildings all remaining vacant, a concrete wasteland thus turning out to be a disaster for investors].

  2. Walter Reiter says:

    J Connelly – add this to reasons why your elected officials are off target. Foam recycles and that plastic coated starbucks paper cup does not. This product ban does not help the environment one iota. That plastic coated paper cup will still be sitting in a landfill (if its not littered) not biodegraded when that landfill is covered in dirt and turned into a park

  3. Rather than a one-side versus the other, I’d like to see businesses receive incentives such as a percentage off their membership to the Chamber of Commerce or Somerville Local First or a percentage off advertising in High School sports’ programs. Promoting reusable items can also be a great selling point for businesses. Should they need any advice, have them contact Grover at Eat At Jumbos and he can explain how well his focus on sustainability, including reusable pizza boxes, has been going. Maybe the Chamber or SLF can hold a marketing seminar for businesses who are interested in being environmentally-respectful, while gaining revenue and getting good PR for themselves.

    Unfortunately, it has to come to the point where municipalities have to ban these types of materials to make way for more recyclable-friendly and/or reusable methods. The root of this issue lies within the creation of these materials…we continually create things we have no idea how to properly dispose of and that mentality needs to change (thanks to Wenzday Jane for pointing this out to me).

  4. A. Moore says:

    I think they just want to take a break from the real issues of running a city. There is no real reason for them to even be involved with this. Reminds me back when Frank Bakey was in and they wanted to boycot a certain kind of lettuce. He got up and said when he got a BLT and looked inside he couldn’t tell what lettuce was in it so how would he know if he should eat it or not? At least he was entertaining.

  5. A Moore says:

    There are at least 2 companies here in MA that recycle styrofoam who want the business of recycling it. It is not as if we had no alternative.. And I still believe it should be handles on a state level, not town by town. Either ban it or recycle it.

  6. Somerbreeze says:

    If there are companies in MA that recycle styrofoam, why can’t they get involved here?

    Or is there a “Uh-Oh!” reflex in City Hall that shudders in “Payback Mode?”

  7. j. connelly says:

    A. Moore is correct…The Hill Gang is not addressing real issues when doing stuff like this.
    Courtney….it is all hype and a con game. The city cannot even enforce the ordinance that people are not suppose to remove items from the recycle bins and then they propose this? Yet if you do not remember to place the trash can cover or the wind blows it off they jump on you with a ticket/fine. Nice selective enforcement. Hogans Heroes had the “Crittendon Plan”…..We got the “Curtatone Plan”

    Just wait till spring comes and the snow melts away and the dirt at the FRIT development gets taken up by the wind and pushes all that hazardous material (that was supposedly removed) into the area where shoppers will be breathing it in and it will be melting the finishes off of the yachts and the city PR man will be telling everyone that the endangered gray bellied rodents in the area could suffer trauma if they remove the dirt…. Ah only in Somerville.

  8. j connelly,

    Is this what you’re referring to?

    Sec. 9-52. – Disturbing trash containers before collection.

    No person, except as authorized by ordinance of the city, by order, regulation, license or permission of the board of aldermen or other board or officer of the city thereto duly authorized, or except an officer or employee of the city and for some public purpose or use, shall move or disturb a barrel or other receptacle containing ashes or other refuse materials, or disturb, overhaul or interfere with the contents thereof, while said barrel or other receptacle remains in or upon a highway of the city, placed there in order that said contents may be carried away by some person authorized as aforesaid, or while said barrel or other receptacle remains in or upon a private way or land within ten feet of a highway, placed there in order that said contents may be carried away by some person authorized as aforesaid.

  9. Kara says:

    The US municipalities that have already banned styrofoam have done so because recycling EPS is very difficult and is often not cost-effective.

    You may recall the last styrofoam drop-off event in Somerville involved a laundry list of exceptions to what would be accepted.

    The Aldermen considered recycling in their discussions.

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