Styrofoam ban floated for South City

Styrofoam to-go containers may soon become a thing of the past in The Industrial City, the latest municipality in San Mateo County to consider banning the plastic.

City officials have been pondering a “green food packaging ordinance” that would require all vendors dispensing prepared foods to substitute polystyrene containers, such as Styrofoam, for compostable or recyclable wares.

City leaders said they hope to pass the ordinance by September.

“It impacts the marine life and creates numerous problems from a landfill standpoint because it doesn’t decompose; it just sits,” said Susan Kennedy, assistant to the city manager. “For the cities that have implemented a similar ordinance, they’ve been able to see a decrease of that type of product in their storm drains and landfill.”

Last month, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors banned Styrofoam from county property — including jails, the San Mateo Medical Center and its clinics, government buildings and the San Mateo Event Center. The county’s ban will go into effect July 1.

Millbrae became the first city in the county to ban the material after officials passed an ordinance last year. Last summer, San Francisco required food vendors to use compostable or recyclable to-go containers.

Some South City restaurateurs said that although they agree that Styrofoam should be banned, the timing is not right.

“The idea is great, but the cost incurred for restaurants is a dramatic increase, so for restaurants that are not doing so well because of the economy, it’s a double-edged sword,” said Robert Beebout, general manager of Hungry Hunter Restaurant at 180 South Airport Blvd. “If there was a different packaging that’s more affordable, I’d say it’s fantastic, but I think the timing is bad right now.”

Kennedy said the cost difference between Styrofoam and recyclable containers is less than a nickel per item.

Some local businesses discontinued the use of Styrofoam voluntarily after a request by the city in July. Business managers said abandoning the plastic is not only better for nature, but also for business.

“We’ve changed out all our wares in February because all the way around, it’s just much better for the environment,” said Sandra O’Toole, executive director of South San Francisco Conference Center.

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

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