PLASTICS AND ENVIRONMENT
San Francisco bans EPS disposables / Most comprehensive US legislation / Medical packaging likely to be exempted / Step toward city's zero waste to landfill plan
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has passed a law banning the use of disposable polystyrene foam products, which it claims is the most comprehensive in the US. Due to go into effect on 1 January 2017, it will apply to throwaway food containers and other EPS based products or packaging sold or handed out by retailers. The list includes packing peanuts, take-away containers, coffee cups, egg cartons, ice chests, foam dock floatings, mooring buoys, and pool toys. The legislation provides for other exemptions if deemed necessary, and the city has already signalled that insulation foam, in particular for medical packaging, will be exempted. An extension until mid-2017 will be granted for phasing out foam meat trays.

The board’s president, London Breed, said the legislation, which represents another step toward San Francisco’s goal of zero waste to landfill by 2020, strikes “the right balance between small business and protecting the environment.” California, and especially San Francisco, has traditionally led the US in environmental legislation. In 2007, the city banned the use of plastic carrier bags unless they were certified as biodegradable and recyclable, as well as containers for prepared food taken away from restaurants. The then-rules mandated that compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware or to-go containers be substituted in the absence of any suitable product priced within 15% of the cost of non-compostable or non-recyclable alternatives. The latest regulations extend the ban to food packaging used in retail outlets.

New York City temporarily banned polystyrene products in 2015, but the ban – which was vehemently opposed by the recycling industry and restaurant owners – was overturned by the state supreme court the same year in favour of a recycling scheme proposed by Dart Container (Mason, Michigan / USA; www.dartcontainer.com) and PS specialist Plastics Recycling Inc (PRI, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; www.plastic-recycling.net). Together, the companies pledged to recover 90% of the city’s foam waste estimated at 30,000 t/y – see Plasteurope.com of 28.09.2015 – and guaranteed the city sanitation department a price of USD 160/t. In overturning the legislation, Justice Margaret A. Chan said, “single-serve EPS is recyclable.” The city appealed the decision to the court’s appellate chamber but lost its case in December 2015. Officials must now draw up a new proposal for dealing with the waste that would include recycling.

Commenting on the new San Francisco rules, the American Chemistry Council (ACC, Washington DC; www.americanchemistry.com), which had opposed the move, said that due to its lighter weight polystyrene helps protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions during transportation. It urged the city to reconsider the requirement to substitute biodegradable packaging for EPS, saying that “all packaging leaves an environmental footprint.” In this context, Samantha Sommer, a project manager with advocacy group Clean Water Action California (Oakland; www.cleanwateraction.org/states/california) called for a ban on all single-trip packaging. “Compostables are not the silver bullet,” she said. “Even biodegradables come from resources; it takes resources to produce, it produces energy and water emissions throughout its life cycle, and then becomes difficult to manage.”
05.07.2016 Plasteurope.com [234459-0]
Published on 05.07.2016

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