It's official, starting Jan. 1, 2009: Styrofoam takeout boxes will be a thing of the past in the Emerald City.
The City Council unanimously passed legislation on Monday allowing a phased ban on the use of expanded polystyrene for food service purposes. Businesses that currently use foam containers will have five months to use up their stock and find alternatives to pack up their takeaway.
Foam meat and seafood trays are exempt from the January deadline, giving grocers a break and allowing them until July 2010 to find suitable packaging alternatives for meat products.
Sheri Myers, director of government affairs for Safeway, recently echoed the concerns of many grocers over the lack of safe alternatives to meat trays. She asked the council to give grocery stores two years before the ban to work with distributors to find alternative packaging.
Jerry Bartlett, Vice President of Cedar Grove Compost in Everett, said that his company is focused on the issue and he thinks they have recently found a compostable meat tray alternative.
Also effective July 2010, the second phase of the foam ban will extend to even more plastics, demanding that all disposable food containers and utensils be biodegradable or recyclable.
In a public statement, the council said it believes expanded polystyrene adds too much to the city's waste stream and presents a hazard to marine life because it breaks down into indigestible pellets.
The decision to ban foam is an extension of the council's Zero Waste Strategy to improve recycling and waste reduction. The goal is to increase recycling and composting in the city from 44 percent currently to 72 percent by 2025.
Seattle isn't the first to ban foam, however. Portland, OR has had a ban on expanded polystyrene since 1990.