Sonoma County plans to ban styrofoam containers to reduce waste

Supervisors in Sonoma County will review a long-overdue proposal on Tuesday to ban food containers made of styrofoam and other products made from styrofoam, a non-recyclable and non-biodegradable material frequently used in take-out packaging.

The model ordinance, likely to come back for a decision in late August, is part of a larger effort to both reduce the amount of waste that enters the county landfill or litter the region’s landscape and to promote recyclable, reusable or compostable alternatives.

“It’s high time,” said supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents the county at Zero Waste Sonoma, the regional council that oversees solid waste management in the county.

Six of its cities – Sevastopol, Petaluma, Healdsburg, Cloverdale, Sonoma and Windsor – have already approved a model ordinance banning the use and sale of cups, bowls, styrofoam containers, etc., as well as coolers, water toys, packaging peanuts and other packaging materials made from the substance.

Any final order approved by the Supervisory Board would apply in the unincorporated area outside the city limits. Similar ordinances have also been passed in more than 120 other cities in California.

Exemptions would exist in the county ordinance for undue hardship cases; foods prepared and packaged outside the county; packaging of meat and fish; and products containing polystyrene foam encased in a durable material to prevent the foam from breaking into pieces and being blown into the environment.

The draft ordinance presented by Zero Waste Sonoma staff would also ban the use of cardboard or cardboard catering containers made with PFAS – Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. The chemicals are used in coatings resistant to grease, oil, water and heat, among many other products.

They are very persistent in the environment, can seep into food and be absorbed by food plants through the soil. They are thought to contribute to serious adverse health effects, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

The county ordinance would further require food vendors who distribute disposable catering products to use compostable or recyclable products by January 1 and provide straws, lids, cutlery and packets of condiments to take out. – none of which are accepted for recycling – if specifically requested by a customer.

Food suppliers would be encouraged to charge a 25-cent “take-out charge” for disposable items and provide a 25-cent credit to consumers who bring in reusable take-out containers under the order.

Tuesday’s discussion follows a resolution passed by the county’s waste agency in 2018 aspiring to a goal of “zero waste” by 2030. The supervisory board will be asked to pass the same resolution, which calls on residents to reduce their waste by 10%. per person, per day, in part by reducing waste, increasing item reuse and repair, recycling, composting and the use of green manufacturing products.

These efforts would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, about 50% of which result from resource extraction, production, shipping and packaging of all goods, according to the project. order.

Leslie Lukacs, executive director of Zero Waste Sonoma, said the county’s review of the polystyrene ban has been postponed, like so many things, due to recent wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, which also delayed the application of new ordinances in some communities.

Only Sevastopol, the first city to take action on the model ordinance, put the ban into effect. Sevastopol City Council took its first vote on the issue in March 2019. Petaluma and Healdsburg followed later that year, with Windsor acting in early 2020 and Sonoma passing an ordinance in April.

Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Cotati are all expected to consider similar measures in the coming months, with other cities making changes to extend the ban beyond styrofoam to PFAS, as well as adopting restrictions on the distribution of other single-use items, according to Zero Waste Sonoma.

The county’s discussion on waste reduction will be followed by a presentation on organic waste disposal and the state’s mandates to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas produced in part by materials. buried organic materials such as yard waste and food scraps.

The board is set to explore mandatory organic waste collection from residents and business entities in the unincorporated area, a requirement already imposed by cities.

You can reach editor Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or [email protected] On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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