Polystyrene closer to oblivion

Millbrae will soon become the latest city to ban Styrofoam products, which means good things for the environment and higher costs for businesses and customers.

An ordinance introduced to the City Council on Tuesday, expected to become law in two weeks, bans foam and solid polystyrene products. The small Peninsula community joins cities such as San Francisco and Oakland that have enacted similar bans on such materials, which are costly to recycle and are a source of litter because they are not biodegradable.

Paying for the more eco-friendly alternative products beginning on Jan. 1 will be tough for dozens of businesses in the city that use products such as clamshell containers, Styrofoam cups and to-go carriers.

“They said it would be a lot more expensive,” said Darline Marquard, owner of Zack’s Bar and Grill at 100 El Camino Real. “That means you pass it on to the customer.”

Michael Yavarri, owner of Yumi Yogurt, which has been at 1069 El Camino Real for more than 20 years, said he’ll likely have to eliminate one of his five different container sizes because the cost for the items will roughly triple or quadruple. He currently pays $600 to $800 per month for Styrofoam containers.

“Anything to help the environment is really good — it’s just that I didn’t expect it to be so costly,” Yavarri said.

The Millbrae Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted to support the ban last week. Costs for alternative products should go down once more cities adopt similar ordinances, said chamber President and CEO John Ford.

“This isn’t one that you want to fight because it really does make sense,” Ford said.

Alternative products will typically be 5 percent to 30 percent more costly than polystyrene, depending on the product, he said.

The city used polylactic acid beer cups, which cost about 50 percent more than Styrofoam, during its Art and Wine Festival earlier this month.

The city has sent mailers to businesses that will be affected and held two meetings over the summer about the ban, but attendance has been poor, said Recycling Coordinator Shelly Reider.

The ban is part of the Sustainable Millbrae Programs that began in July 2006 to initiate green policies. The city began offering a solar-rebate program in July, adopted energy-efficiency standards for city facilities, started a plastic-bag reduction program and organized park cleanups and tree plantings.

Banned items

» Containers

» Bowls

» Plates

» Trays

» Cartons

» Cups

» Lids

» Straws

» Utensils

Alternatives

» Paperboard or aluminum containers

» Coated paper or polylactic acid cups

» Utensils made from potatoes

Others saying no

California cities among more than 100 nationwide that have banned polystyrene:

» San Francisco

» Oakland

» Emeryville

» Berkeley

» Santa Cruz

» Santa Monica

» Malibu

» Huntington Beach

» San Clemente

» Aliso Viejo

» San Juan Capistrano

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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