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San Rafael Joins Mill Valley, County in Banning Polystyrene Foam Take-out Containers

The ban goes into effect in one year and impacts approximately 250 business but excludes meat packaging trays, food prepackaged outside of San Rafael, foam coolers and foam containers for certain emergency supplies and services.

The San Rafael City Council has approved a ban on polystyrene foam take-out containers in restaurants and retail food vendors, joining Mill Valley, Sausalito and the County of Marin in doing so.

The ban will go into effect in 2013.

Due to the inability to recycle polystyrene foam and its potential harmful effects on the environment and health, the council began to consider a ban in 2010. They drafted the ordinance to target single-use polystyrene foam items, like "clamshell" food containers and cups, where the transition to other recycleable takeout containers would be easier for local businesses.

"This is one step forward to addressing zero waste," said Bill Carney, head of advocacy group Sustainable San Rafael.

The ordinance would affect approximately 250 local businesses, but will exclude meat packaging trays, food prepackaged outside of San Rafael, foam coolers and foam containers for certain emergency supplies and services.

Mill Valley passed its own ban in August 2009 when the Mill Valley City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance (attached at right).

County officials reported that businesses were either already using other types of take-out containers or the switch was not difficult, according to the San Rafael staff report.

For San Rafael resident Hugo Landecker, the ban will help keep the bay clean from garbage left behind from homeless encampments. "The winter rains are coming and so much of this is going to flow into the drainage, into the San Rafael canal and into the bay," he said.

Outreach and enforcement would be handled by the Marin County Environmental Health through their regular on-site food service inspection process.

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