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Est. 2014

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Proposal would prohibit the city and its vendors from buying Styrofoam

Proposal would prohibit the city and its vendors from buying Styrofoam

The Rochester City Council will consider a policy proposal this week to restrict the purchase and use of expanded polystyrene food containers.

The proposal is being introduced by Council Member Annalissa Johnson. She said the ban on expanded polystyrene — more commonly known by the trade name Styrofoam — would apply only to the city and its vendors.

That means, unlike cities such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, which have approved restrictions affecting restaurants, Rochester would not be banning the use of Styrofoam citywide. City employees, for instance, would still be able to bring expanded polystyrene containers in from home.

Over the past couple of years, a small — but growing — number of cities and states have begun passing restrictions on single-use food containers, straws, and grocery bags. As the news website Vox reported in May, most U.S. facilities are not able to recycle Styrofoam; and even in places where it can be recycled, the materials are often so contaminated by food or drink that it winds up in a landfill, where it doesn’t biodegrade.

For Johnson, it was those sustainability concerns that prompted her to bring the proposed policy before the council. For the past several years, the City of Rochester has pushed to make sustainability a key area of focus.

“We do see the overall demand for Styrofoam products diminishing and this move will help us do our part in reducing our carbon footprint,” Johnson said in a message this afternoon.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Johnson will seek support from her colleagues to draft a policy that would come before the council on or before November 4. Her goal is to have the policy implemented by January 1, 2020.

The start of a new year will correlate with the transition to a new operating model for the Mayo Civic Center — meaning any food vendor there would have to fall in line with the policy. This week, a board overseeing the city’s convention and tourism efforts is scheduled to hold closed-door sessions to review applications from prospective MCC food and beverage providers.

Sean Baker is a Rochester journalist and the founder of Med City Beat.

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