By Cathleen Twardzik
As you finish your scrumptious restaurant meal and ask for a box in which to transport your leftovers, your experience may be forever changed in Somerville because polystyrene containers (Styrofoam) may be replaced in the city. For that matter, your morning coffee may soon be packaged differently, certainly not in a polystyrene cup.
A public hearing about a possible ban on the use polystyrene containers was recently held in the Aldermanic Chambers in Somerville City Hall with the Board of Aldermen.
The meeting was “on the order of” Alderman Rebekah L. Gewirtz, Alderman of Ward 6 in Somerville and Chairman of the Committee on Legislative Matters.
The purpose was to gather ideas and public opinion about the city’s proposed ordinance, which would ban the use of polystyrene containers to be used for take-out food in restaurants in the city.
The ban issue is ongoing, and a decision has not yet been made.
A City of Somerville ordinance defined some terms and gave some explanations, which pertain to the Styrofoam issue.
“‘Expanded Polystyrene’ means blown polystyrene – polystyrene that has been expanded or “blown” using a gaseous blowing agent into a solid foam – and expanded and extruded forms, which are thermoplastic petrochemical materials, utilizing a styrene monomer and processed by any number of techniques,” according to the ordinance.
“Food establishments are prohibited from dispensing prepared food to customers in disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene, city departments or agencies shall not purchase or use disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene while in the performance of official city duties, and individuals or entities shall not use disposable food service containers made from expanded polystyrene, in a city facility while performing under a city contract, lease, license, grant or other agreement.”
“The health department, inspectional services department or their designee shall have primary responsibility for enforcement of this provision and shall have authority to issue citations for violation(s). The health department or its designee is authorized to establish regulations or administrative procedures and to take any and all actions reasonable and necessary to further the purposes of this section or to obtain compliance with this section, including but not limited to, inspecting any food establishment’s premises to verify compliance in accordance with applicable law.”
The ordinance’s terms include “disposable food service container,” which is a one-time-use disposable product that is used to transport or to serve prepared beverages or food, such as leftovers or take-out food. Therefore, cups, bowls and plates would be included.
“Prepared food” refers to any beverage or food, which is prepared on the “food establishment premises” and which utilizes “any food preparation technique.” However, uncooked or unprepared is not included in this ordinance. Finally, food establishment rounds out the included terms.
According to Starbucks at 260 Elm St. in Somerville, if the ban goes into effect, it will not affect their business because Styrofoam cups are not used at that eatery chain.
Dunkin’ Donuts in Somerville was unavailable for comment about the essential issue.
So, Somerville, get ready, possibly, to trade in the old restaurant take-out staple, polystyrene, for an alternative environmentally safe product.