BY GAIL BARNES
As a part of San Francisco’s goal of zero waste by 2020, last week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban the use of a wide variety of polystyrene products, with legislation that covers food packaging, packing peanuts, take-out containers, cups and ice chests among other items.
Board Supervisor London Breed hailed the legislation’s passage, and is quoted in the press as saying: “We just passed the toughest anti-Styrofoam law in the country, and we did it unanimously. This is a huge step for our environment and health. San Francisco is on our way to leading the country on environmental policy – again!”
Although polystyrene is often also referred to as Styrofoam, that is the trademarked brand name that refers to the polystyrene foam used for thermal insulation and craft applications, not the polystyrene that is used on a daily basis, including for food applications. Trademarked Styrofoam products which are used for insulation and construction materials and some craft products are not included in the ban.
The board is expected to issue final approval of the ban on 12 July. Once enacted, the ban will take effect on 1 January 2017 for most products, although a later effective date of 1 July 2017 applies to meat and fish trays.
Although a number of cities have ordinances that restrict the use of polystyrene food service materials and/or packaging, San Francisco’s legislation is being described as the nation’s most extensive ban of this type.
New York City briefly implemented a ban last year, arguing that polystyrene products cause environmental harm and contribute to waste, but the ban was overturned a few months later in favour of a plan to ensure the products could be recycled. Washington DC currently has a ban on expanded polystyrene products in the food service industry that went into effect in January.
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