Monday, August 27, 2012

Proposed foam ban task force may take up bags as well

Portland Daily Sun http://www.portlanddailysun.me/index.php/newsx/local-news/7086-proposed-foam-ban-lacks-scope-at-this-point-in-the-process Proposed foam ban task force may take up bags as well Written by Craig Lyons Given that a proposed ban on non-recyclable foam containers throughout Portland was just floated Monday night, exactly what products would be prohibited has yet to be defined. The City Council's Transportation, Sustainability and Energy Committee has been tasked with developing an ordinance that would ban the sale of non-recyclable polystyrene foam containers but given little other direction. Councilor David Marshall, who is the chairman of the committee, said the particulars of the ordinance will all be hashed out by members of the council, city staff and stakeholders. Marshall said he's going to propose that the committee set up a task force that would look at not only the issue around foam containers but also plastic bags. He said he's likely going to make the suggestion at Wednesday night's meeting. "We can work on it from there," he said. The task force would come up with recommendation about what regulations on foam containers and plastic bags should look like, said Marshall, and be made up of business people, manufacturers and other stakeholders that use these products. Marshall said it's important to have a conversation about what the city can to reduce the use of these products that are generating waste, clogging the water systems and having an effect on the environment. Ideally, the task force will develop some recommendations that reduce waste in the city, said Marshall, but in a way that minimally impacts businesses. Councilor Ed Suslovic introduced the idea of a Styrofoam ban and said he was partly inspired by the Portland School System's initiative to eliminate non-recyclable foam products. The Portland Public School System launched a recycling and composting initiative this year with the goal to completely separate out cafeteria waste by September 2012. The district aims to reduce trash by 50 to 80 percent, according to a press release, and save about $50,000 on trash hauling. Suslovic said, during Monday night's council meeting, that the initiative in the school system was the impetus for the possibility of banning the sale of non-recyclable foam food containers within the city. Suslovic said at one of the middle schools, the cafeteria went from producing 14 bags of trash to two because of the recycling and composting initiatives. Because the school system has seen fit to eliminate the foam containers, Suslovic said, he felt it's time the city consider doing the same. "That's the intent here," he said. Suslovic said he'd like to see Portland adopt a measure much like Freeport did. The town of Freeport enacted a ban on non-recyclable polystyrene foam containers in 1990. The town's ordinance prohibits retail vendors from serving or preparing food and not packaging meat, eggs, bakery products or other food in polystyrene containers. The ordinance further prevents retailers and vendors within the town from selling polystyrene food or beverage containers. For people who violated the ordinance, they faced a possible maximum fine of $200 for the first violation and a maximum fine of $500 for the second violation. "This is not a new phenomenon," said Richard Groton, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association. He said it started on the West Coast and has gradually moved east. As the city prepares to start looking at the issue of foam containers, Groton said it's important that whatever regulations get developed are done in a logical way. He said it can be an emotional issue but that shouldn't tinge the ordinance development process. Groton said while Styrofoam containers are still being used and manufactured, the popularity of Styrofoam is waning. "[The industry] has been moving away from it pretty rapidly," he said. But even with other products on the market, Groton said, Styrofoam containers are still popular because they better insulate food. He said it's important to food vendors that their product is served at the right temperature, and other types of containers could jeopardize that. Groton said as regulations are being developed, the city needs to give enough notice to the people who rely on foam containers so they have time to prepare for a ban on the products. He said implementing any ordinance should be done in a way that doesn't put any undo burden on businesses and product manufacturers.

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