King’s, MarketPlace transitioning to compostable meat and seafood trays

King’s Market and Friday Harbor MarketPlace are transitioning to compostable meat and seafood trays.

King’s Manager John McBride has been looking for ways to phase out polystyrene containers and packaging at his store since becoming involved in the San Juan Island Anti-Litter Initiative. The initiative, working with lead advocate Doris Estabrooks, lobbied for bans on polystyrene food to-go containers in San Juan County and the Town of Friday Harbor. The bans took effect in April. A similar ban took effect in Seattle in July.

First to go at King’s were polystyrene containers in the deli in 2008, followed by polystyrene, or styrofoam, ice chests.

McBride noted that styrofoam meat packaging is exempted from the ban, which mostly targeted food to-go containers at restaurants. But he found meat packaging made from 100 percent plant material that biodegrades in earth in 60 days. It’s endorsed by Cedar Grove Composting, the Pacific Northwest’s leading organic recycling company.

McBride said King’s and MarketPlace started using the packaging on June 7. It’s beige or off-white in color and is being used for meat and seafood.

“We’re 75 percent there now and we’re using it as the product becomes available,” McBride said of the transition.

Polystyrene is 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.

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