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It's official: Styrofoam to-go containers are banned in Friday Harbor; law takes effect in April

By JOURNAL STAFF

Styrofoam’s days are numbered in Friday Harbor — at least in the form of to-go food containers.

The Friday Harbor Town Council today voted 5-0 to approve a ban on Styrofoam to-go food containers. The ban will take effect April 22.

The council asked town staff to draft an ordinance after a presentation Aug. 6 by members of the San Juan Anti-Litter Initiative, which has long proposed a ban.

Members say the ban fulfills the desires of more than 1,000 islanders and visitors who signed a petition supporting the ban.

“I’m thrilled to death,” said Doris Estabrooks, who’s led a three-year campaign to rid the island of Styrofoam.

The County Council will consider a similar ban on Sept. 1, and Estabrooks is confident there will be enough votes this time around.

She said County Council Chairman Rich Peterson, recently gave her a full 45 minutes to make a case in support of the ban. She said that Peterson, who earlier advocated for voluntary measures as a means of reducing rather than by law, appears to be changing his stance because of the potential negative health that polystyrene products have been associated with.

“We feel reasonably sure we’re going to pass it at the county,” she said. “If we get the County Council to ban it, we’ll be the first county to ban it in the state of Washington. It’s so important for us to set an example.”

Anti-Litter Initiative member Stephanie Buffum-Field, who is also executive director of Friends of the San Juans, said Aug. 6 the ordinance fulfills a commitment made by the county and town by resolution in 1996. The town took the first step in 2007 when it made town-owned buildings “Styrofoam-free zones.” In so doing, the Town Council committed the town to purchasing and using products that do not contain Styrofoam.

Estabrooks, who helped persuade numerous local merchants to cut back or discontinue the use of Styrofoam food containers voluntarily, said several restaurant owners have discovered that Styrofoam containers are now more expensive than containers made from other materials.

“Now that should carry a lot of weight,” she said.

John McBride, manager of King’s Market, said his store has stopped carrying Styrofoam coolers and, about six months ago, stopped using Styrofoam in the deli.

Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based product that can be toxic and can leach out of products made from it. It is not biodegradable and can break up into pieces that then can either choke or clog an animal’s digestive systems should it somehow be consumed.

Petroleum-based products can be a threat to human health and reproductive systems.

In addition to being a primary ingredient in “to-go” containers, polystyrene is used as a building material, in manufacturing electrical appliances, and in other household items.

Lori Stokes of the Anti-Litter Initiative said similar bans are already in effect in other prominent West Coast cities, like Seattle and Portland. She said a heavy dose of public outreach about product alternatives should follow any approved ban.

There would be need for exemptions, such as packaging trays that hold meat and fish products, because, she said, a cost-effective alternative has yet to be developed.

Stokes said education and alternatives will be a priority so that local merchants can climb aboard rather than “feel attacked.”

Ultimately, Estabrooks said, the environment and future generations will benefit by through the reduction and elimination of products made of polystyrene.

“There’s enough messes out there to worry about without Styrofoam,” she said.

The ordinance
AN ORDINANCE restricting the use of expanded polystyrene materials in food service containers, to be codified as Chapter 8.10 of the Friday Harbor Municipal Code.

WHEREAS, expanded polystyrene food service containers are non-degradable and create difficulties for the operation of an environmentally and financially responsible program of solid waste management; and

WHEREAS, expanded polystyrene products often enter the Town’s storm drains and watersheds, thereby posing a threat to the natural environment; and

WHEREAS, some medical studies have indicated that chemicals in expanded polystyrene are carcinogenic and may leach into food or drink, thereby causing health risks to humans; and

WHEREAS, products which are degradable and easily recyclable offer an environmentally preferable alternative to products that contain expanded polystyrene; and

WHEREAS, in order to decrease the use of certain expanded polystyrene products in the Town of Friday Harbor, it is necessary to regulate such use:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE TOWN OF FRIDAY HARBOR AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. Prohibition.

A. Effective on the date set forth in Section 4, below, food service businesses located in the Town of Friday Harbor shall be prohibited from selling or providing food, for consumption on or off the premises, in or on packaging made wholly or partially of expanded polystyrene, except as otherwise provided under Subsection B.

B. Food service business that sell or otherwise provide food to their customers in prepackaged expanded polystyrene containers that have been filled and sealed prior to receipt by the food service businesses or that sell or otherwise provide to their customers meat, fish or shellfish products in or on containers made wholly or partially of expanded polystyrene shall be exempt from the prohibition established in subsection A.

Section 2. Definition.
For purposes of this Ordinance, the following definitions shall apply:

A. “Expanded polystyrene” means blown polystyrene and expanded and extruded foams which are thermoplastic petrochemical materials utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by any number of techniques including, but not limited to, fusion of polymer spheres (expandable bead polystyrene), injection molding, foam molding, and extrusion-blow molding (extruded foam polystyrene).

B. “Food service businesses” means full-service restaurants, fast food restaurants, cafés, delicatessens, coffee shops, grocery stores, vending trucks or carts, business or institutional cafeterias, and any other businesses selling or providing food for consumption on or off the premises.

Section 3. Violation and Penalties.
A. Violations.

1. The first violation of any provision of this Ordinance shall be a Class 3 civil infraction.

2. The second violation of any provision of this Ordinance by the same person within a one-year period shall be a Class 2 civil infraction.

3. A third or subsequent violation of any provision of this Ordinance by the same person within a one-year period shall constitute a Class 1 civil infraction.

B. Penalties.
The penalties for committing a civil infraction under this Ordinance are set forth in Chapter 1.18 FHMC, as it may be amended from time to time.

Section 4. Effective Date.
This Ordinance shall become effective on April 22, 2010.

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