By Andrew Stelzer
San Jose is poised to become the largest city in the country to ban polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam, food containers, which often end up in landfills unable to be recycled. The City Council will be voting Tuesday afternoon on the ban, which would take effect on Jan. 1 for national food chains and January 2015 for local businesses. Hardship exceptions would be available for merchants grossing under $300,000 a year.
Councilman Sam Liccardo is the measure's chief proponent. He said the city has unsuccessfully tried for 17 years to find a way to recycle the foam containers, often used by restaurants.
“I think a lot of cities are waiting and watching, and we hope as we saw with the plastic bag ban, when we move, they’ll move with us,” Liccardo said. "We’ve seen it work in other cities. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t work here in the center of innovation, in Silicon Valley.”
Liccardo said San Jose's plastic bag ban has led to 90 percent fewer bags in storm drains and 60 percent fewer in creeks. “We know that a ban on expanded polystyrene can have similar results."
But Angie Pappas, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association, said alternatives to the Styrofoam containers are insufficient. "“We are definitely doing more outreach and education to our members about green practices and about alternative products," she said. "But what we are hearing back from them is that alternatives are more expensive and they don’t perform as well.”