Proposed ban on Styrofoam moves forward

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May 12, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

A City Council committee voted today to update an ordinance banning Styrofoam to make the measure easier to enforce.

The Health, Environment & Community Engagement Committee voted to amend the ordinance to require restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks and event vendors to use reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging. Since Styrofoam containers aren't recycled locally, they would not be allowed.

If approved by the full City Council, the ban would go into effect on April 22, 2015 (Earth Day). There is an exemption if a business can't find a reasonable commercial alternative to a polystyrene product.

Several other cities across the country have passed similar ordinances banning polystyrene, including San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Seattle and New York City.

City Council Member Andrew Johnson (Ward 12) led the effort to update the ordinance. The ban has technically been in place since 1989, but hasn't been enforced.

He said it's exciting to hear that many businesses and residents are on board with moving toward environmentally friendly products.  Johnson and other people who testified at today's public hearing noted that businesses pass on costs associated with Styrofoam products to the community since they have to be extracted during the recycling process and cleared from stormwater drains. 

Most of the people who testified at the hearing spoke in favor of the ban, suggesting it would improve the city's image as an environmental leader and help Minneapolis move toward its goal of becoming a zero-waste city.

A few people representing companies who manufacture polystyrene products, however, argued that the ban goes too far and more should be done to look into ways to recycle the material.