This morning, the Council also unanimously adopted Council Member Andrew Johnson's update to the City's Environmentally Acceptable Packaging ordinance
. You can read the staff report here
, and view their powerpoint presentation here
I enthusiastically supported this ordinance, and I'm glad that it passed with such a strong show of support from the Council. I view this as one of many actions we will have to take to make good on our commitments to move towards a Zero Waste goal for Minneapolis.
Polystyrene foam, is simply not a good solution for food service. It is difficult or impossible to successfully recycle. It can't be recycled into food service products, but can only be "down-cycled" into other types of items like clothes hangers, flower pots, and picture frames. It must be very clean and dry in order to be recycled. It leaches styrene, a likely carcinogen, into hot, oily, or acidic foods.
Even rigid polystyrene is not a good idea. While it is recycled in some places in the Twin Cities metro (it is not recycled in St. Paul, for example), the market for the material is not robust. We can collect it for recycling, but it's very difficult to "close the loop" and create new food service products out of it.
And more importantly, there are good alternatives for most products. The ordinance allows businesses to offer truly recyclable containers or compostable alternatives, something that many food businesses have been doing for decades. This will fit in well with the planned expansion of organics collection citywide. Where there aren't good alternatives, the ordinance provides an exemption.
Businesses now have almost a year - until Earth Day, 2015 - to find new solutions for their packaging. Health Department staff are available to help with the transition, and funding is available from Hennepin County grants and City loans in order to help out.
I want to congratulate Council Member Andrew Johnson on this success. His work has made our city just a little bit greener today.