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Mountain View bans plastic food ware for all restaurants starting in 2023

Restaurants in Mountain View will no longer be allowed to serve food in plastic containers starting in 2023. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Plastic cups, straws and cutlery will soon vanish from every restaurant, fast food joint and coffee and tea shop in Mountain View, after the City Council voted unanimously last week to roll out a ban on non-compostable disposable food service ware.

Starting in 2023, the ordinance requires all food providers to ditch plastic single-use food service ware, which includes cups, plates, trays, cartons and wrappers. Instead, they will be required to use either aluminum or compostable fiber-based containers. The ban also applies to straws, stirrers, food picks and toothpicks.

The new rules won quick approval from council members at the Nov. 9 meeting, who saw the ordinance as a means to cut down on food waste headed for landfills as well as a way to improve the health of people who eat in Mountain View. The ordinance requires that all food containers be free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, which are toxic chemicals that are harmful when consumed.

The narrow requirements for fiber-based containers will affect hundreds of businesses, including 112 full-service restaurants, bars and nightclubs, as well as 80 "counter service" businesses like bakeries and ice cream shops. The city's 30 coffee, tea and juice businesses, which rely on clear plastic cups that will soon be noncompliant, are expected to be affected the most by the new rules, along with 22 fast food restaurants.

Plastics, compostable or not, have caused a whole lot of problems for the city and its goal of reducing food waste. Food service ware made out of plastic and plastic-lined paper is not recycled in any of the city's waste management programs, and plastics labeled as compostable break down slowly and only in the right conditions. What's more, compostable and recyclable plastic containers have a similar appearance and are frequently misplaced into recycling bins.

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The current practice in Mountain View is to remove compostable plastics and send them to the landfill, according to city staff.

The new food ware ordinance coincides with a new state law, AB 1200, that also prohibits the sale and distribution of food containers that contain PFAS starting in 2023. But where AB 1200 falls short, and where Mountain View's ordinance goes farther, is verifying that businesses actually comply with the new rules. City officials noted that AB 1200 has no oversight agency or enforcement mechanism, and that businesses are likely to flout the rules without some sort of local certification.

Early polling suggests that nixing plastic is a popular idea with broad support. A survey of 246 people, 64% of whom are residents, found that 93% support the proposed ordinance and 86% said they would be more likely to support a business that offers reusable and compostable food and beverage food ware. The survey does not reflect the sentiment of the business community, however, with only five of the respondents reportedly owning or managing food services in Mountain View.

Councilwoman Alison Hicks said the city ought to emphasize that the ban on single-use plastics is a health measure as much as an environmental one, and that plastics and plastic containers can cause a whole host of health impacts. PFAS have been linked to a weakening of the immune system and increased risk of some cancers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"I hope that this ordinance passes and that the education we do around it emphasizes both the health of the planet and the health of the people," Hicks said.

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Councilwoman Pat Showalter said the ordinance, once enacted in 2023, could have a striking impact on plastic litter and trash ending up in creeks. She pointed out that the plastic bag ban had a monumental effect while she worked at the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and that the new bevy of plastic restrictions could do the same.

"It made an immediate difference in our waterways," Showalter said. "The amount of trash that was found that had been plastic bags before just went practically to zero."

While plastic straws will be largely prohibited starting in 2023, the ordinance does carve out a small exception for people who request plastic straws for medical reasons, and health care facilities can continue to provide them to patients. The city can also suspend parts of the ordinance in the event that "reasonably feasible" compostable options do not exist.

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Mountain View bans plastic food ware for all restaurants starting in 2023

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Nov 16, 2021, 1:22 pm

Plastic cups, straws and cutlery will soon vanish from every restaurant, fast food joint and coffee and tea shop in Mountain View, after the City Council voted unanimously last week to roll out a ban on non-compostable disposable food service ware.

Starting in 2023, the ordinance requires all food providers to ditch plastic single-use food service ware, which includes cups, plates, trays, cartons and wrappers. Instead, they will be required to use either aluminum or compostable fiber-based containers. The ban also applies to straws, stirrers, food picks and toothpicks.

The new rules won quick approval from council members at the Nov. 9 meeting, who saw the ordinance as a means to cut down on food waste headed for landfills as well as a way to improve the health of people who eat in Mountain View. The ordinance requires that all food containers be free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, which are toxic chemicals that are harmful when consumed.

The narrow requirements for fiber-based containers will affect hundreds of businesses, including 112 full-service restaurants, bars and nightclubs, as well as 80 "counter service" businesses like bakeries and ice cream shops. The city's 30 coffee, tea and juice businesses, which rely on clear plastic cups that will soon be noncompliant, are expected to be affected the most by the new rules, along with 22 fast food restaurants.

Plastics, compostable or not, have caused a whole lot of problems for the city and its goal of reducing food waste. Food service ware made out of plastic and plastic-lined paper is not recycled in any of the city's waste management programs, and plastics labeled as compostable break down slowly and only in the right conditions. What's more, compostable and recyclable plastic containers have a similar appearance and are frequently misplaced into recycling bins.

The current practice in Mountain View is to remove compostable plastics and send them to the landfill, according to city staff.

The new food ware ordinance coincides with a new state law, AB 1200, that also prohibits the sale and distribution of food containers that contain PFAS starting in 2023. But where AB 1200 falls short, and where Mountain View's ordinance goes farther, is verifying that businesses actually comply with the new rules. City officials noted that AB 1200 has no oversight agency or enforcement mechanism, and that businesses are likely to flout the rules without some sort of local certification.

Early polling suggests that nixing plastic is a popular idea with broad support. A survey of 246 people, 64% of whom are residents, found that 93% support the proposed ordinance and 86% said they would be more likely to support a business that offers reusable and compostable food and beverage food ware. The survey does not reflect the sentiment of the business community, however, with only five of the respondents reportedly owning or managing food services in Mountain View.

Councilwoman Alison Hicks said the city ought to emphasize that the ban on single-use plastics is a health measure as much as an environmental one, and that plastics and plastic containers can cause a whole host of health impacts. PFAS have been linked to a weakening of the immune system and increased risk of some cancers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"I hope that this ordinance passes and that the education we do around it emphasizes both the health of the planet and the health of the people," Hicks said.

Councilwoman Pat Showalter said the ordinance, once enacted in 2023, could have a striking impact on plastic litter and trash ending up in creeks. She pointed out that the plastic bag ban had a monumental effect while she worked at the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and that the new bevy of plastic restrictions could do the same.

"It made an immediate difference in our waterways," Showalter said. "The amount of trash that was found that had been plastic bags before just went practically to zero."

While plastic straws will be largely prohibited starting in 2023, the ordinance does carve out a small exception for people who request plastic straws for medical reasons, and health care facilities can continue to provide them to patients. The city can also suspend parts of the ordinance in the event that "reasonably feasible" compostable options do not exist.

Comments

Johnny Yuma
Registered user
Blossom Valley
on Nov 16, 2021 at 3:15 pm
Johnny Yuma, Blossom Valley
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 3:15 pm

While it’s not just a local issue nor does Mountain View have the authority, I wish there was a way to eliminate the constant and increasing flow of junk mail. It’s unnecessary and pure waste.


Alexander
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Nov 16, 2021 at 3:42 pm
Alexander, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2021 at 3:42 pm

I'm happy to see this change. Recology has been doing industrial composting for residents for several years now, so moving to compostable containers makes sense for the city.


Patricia Albers
Registered user
Willowgate
on Nov 17, 2021 at 1:35 pm
Patricia Albers, Willowgate
Registered user
on Nov 17, 2021 at 1:35 pm

Plastic pollution is not only a waste problem and health problem but also an urgent fossil fuel problem. In the US, plastic is almost always sourced from fracked natural gas. At every stage in its life cycle, especially manufacturing, plastic produces significant emissions. Yet the petrochemical industry is investing billions to expand plastic production by an estimated 40 percent over the next few decades. They're using plastic to compensate for decreasing profits as Americans turn to more sustainable sources of energy. According to a recent report from the Center on International Environmental Law, emissions from plastic threaten the world’s ability to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Thank you to Mountain View City Council members for doing the right thing for the planet!


Dan Waylonis
Registered user
Jackson Park
on Nov 19, 2021 at 2:28 pm
Dan Waylonis, Jackson Park
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2021 at 2:28 pm

Another "feel good" measure without any data to back the ban. Perhaps there are more substantial contributors to landfill waste than disposable utensils?


Asklee
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2021 at 2:47 pm
Asklee, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2021 at 2:47 pm

I support this measure however MV has to actually start composting these materials. In MV Recology only transports the recyclables. They do not actually do the recycling. That is handled at the SMART station in Sunnyvale.

If you search the What Bin? section of the Recology Mountain View site for “Compostable Plastic Containers” you’ll get this discouraging message saying to put these in the garbage bin. So why can Recology at SM handle industrial composting but SMART cannot?

Plastic-like containers, cups and utensils that are marked or "certified compostable" do not break down well enough in the industrial/commercial composting process. Please put these in the garbage for now until the industry improves the compostability of these products. Thank you.


Anne Infeld
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Nov 20, 2021 at 11:25 am
Anne Infeld, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2021 at 11:25 am

I agree with Asklee - if Mountain View is asking restaurants to start using plastics that are "certified compostable", the city ought to provide a way to compost them. Otherwise there does not seem to be much of a gain. The reply above that simply says that products "certified compostable" don't actually break down in the composting process sounds like a labeling issue. Is there truly no way to compost these products?


Leticia Winslow
Registered user
another community
on Nov 27, 2021 at 12:15 pm
Leticia Winslow, another community
Registered user
on Nov 27, 2021 at 12:15 pm

Disposable and bio-degradable bamboo chopsticks could easily replace plastic ware providing a knife isn't needed.

Bamboo is just another invasive, nuisance plant (similar to a weed) and either irradicating or applying its wood to widespread disposable dining use would pose no major loss to various ecosystems.

The other alternative is to serve food that can be easily eaten with one's hands like they do in the Middle East and Africa.


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