Somerville Bans Polystyrene Takeout Containers

The ban will go into effect in one year.

The Somerville Board of Aldermen Thursday night voted to ban the use of polystyrene takeout food containers.

The ban will take effect in one year, according to the ordinance passed Thursday.

The ordinance prohibits the use of single-use disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene — often called styrofoam — and it will affect things like coffee cups, plates and hinged food trays.

The ban does not affect packages for uncooked foods, such as trays for meat, eggs and other groceries.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously for the ban, despite opposition from some in the food service industry, including Dunkin' Donuts.

As part of the ordinance, the city's director of environment and sustainability will create a list of "available suitable affordable biodegradable/compostable or recyclable alternatives" to polystyrene to assist restaurants making the transition away from polystyrene.

After the ban takes effect, restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and other food service establishments could lose their permits to operate if they fail to comply with the ban. They could also face fines of up to $300 per violation, though they'll receive a warning for their first offense.

Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz, who worked on drafting the ordinance as chair of the Board of Aldermen's Legislative Matters Committee, said the city will conduct an education campaign over the next year to inform businesses about the ban.

"I'm thrilled about this. I think this is a really important, great step we took today," Gewirtz said.


Dunkin' Donuts Opposes Proposed Somerville Styrofoam Ban

No Decision Yet on Proposed Somerville Styrofoam Ban

Somerville to Consider Styrofoam Ban

AHM May 24, 2013 at 12:06 PM
So dumb. Smart thing would have been to recycle it here. People are just going to throw it in their trash and end up in the landfill which they are doing this to avoid. So this really does not accomplish anything. To stop the use they ned to go to the epa or fda, not one city. There might be 3 or 4 cities here in MA to ban it which will still leave us the problem, if it is indeed a problem. If it is that bad it should be done on a state or higher level. It is not city business. Their time should be spent on important things like proper use of our tax money.
Torrie D May 24, 2013 at 12:37 PM
It may just take one city to encourage more to do the same. I am personally proud to live in Somerville because of this ban! One small step in the right direction.
Matt C May 24, 2013 at 02:31 PM
I think both AMH and Torrie have great points. AMH you are 100% right we should add it to the list of recyclables because not everything we buy is bought in Somerville and Torrie Right on!
Shedward Weeks May 24, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Yep - it's a good decision. It's nearly impossible to recycle expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) in any meaningful, efficient way. It's so bulky it ends up using more energy than is saved, so we'd have to subsidize its recycling to get anyone to do it. Instead, it usually ends up creating long lasting landfill. Another approach could be to tax it to pay for its handling/recycling, but that would be more trouble than it's worth. I think it's good that Somerville is making a stand on this. Now we have to shame Cambridge with all its food trucks around Kendall during the work week into doing the same.
Carolyn Day May 24, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Somerville isn't the first city in MA to do this, and Dunkin is the one going around opposing it. One step at a time. Eventually we will get to the state level, but that should not prevent any community to act with conscience. Shedward is correct on it's recyclability, and you may have noticed that many large businesses have gone away from it already. If we change the demand, the supply will decrease and then we won't have to worry about getting rid of it. First Reduce, Then Reuse, Then Recycle. We are doing the first.
AHM May 24, 2013 at 06:26 PM
There are 2 companies looking to recycle this here in MA. And just for the record I can't remember the last time I bought anything in those containers it has been so long. The mayors get together for their meetings for the state and it should be on the agenda to take it there if it is indeed so bad. It will be in the rubbish here banned or not. I am neither for nor opposed to it but just don't use it. I don't know what they would do to it when they recycle it. But would assume better than the landfill until thee higher ups get involved and decide which way to go with this.
Gunther May 25, 2013 at 01:20 AM
Oh great! my favorite place is going to start selling coffee in cups that taste like paper just like their small size. I would be all for this if the drinks did not end up tasting like paper. I hope they can fix that. Sorry Somerville off to another city to get my coffee that tastes like COFFEE!
Gregg Hayward May 25, 2013 at 01:50 AM
Food grade styrofoam has no recycling market, so recycling this stuff is currently not an option. Going higher up on the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle spectrum, and avoiding its use (Reduce) is the way to go here. Way to go Somerville!
tom May 25, 2013 at 04:33 PM
national law in need...
Marie BestVoiceforHire January 11, 2014 at 12:52 AM
My hinged food tray of choice is Eco takeouts (www.sunsugarfarms.com). love em.


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