After months of outreach trying to get restaurants used to the idea, the city’s moving ahead with its ban on Styrofoam-style take-out containers, a uniquely problematic type of litter because of the way expanded polystyrene (EPS) breaks apart and infiltrates the region’s waterways.
On Tuesday, the City Council will discuss the controversial ban slated to go into effect Jan. 1 next year for multi-state chains and a year later for everyone else.
Since the city resumed talking about the ban in February, after giving in to pressure from DART container company last year, dozens of local restaurant owners came out against it, arguing that other food containers cost more and that an ordinance banning EPS foam would become a huge burden on small businesses. To ease the pain, the city agreed to add a financial hardship opt-out for restaurants with gross annual incomes of less than $300,000.
The city conducted a study that found cutting out EPS containers actually saves money. Lee’s Sandwiches, The Loving Hut in Oakridge Mall and Blue Rock BBQ on Meridian Avenue switched to paper containers, which reduced the volume of their trash and thus their garbage collection rates.
San Jose will become one of several Bay Area cities and one of 70 in California to impose such a ban. A recent analysis found that EPS made up about 8 percent of all litter found in San Jose’s storm drains. The system dumps water into creeks already deemed by the state as “impaired by trash,” including the Guadalupe River and Coyote Creek.
To qualify for a state-issued permit to keep discharging storm water (more on that below), the city has to promise to reduce litter by 40 percent by 2014, 70 percent by 2017 and 100 percent by 2022.
The new rule follows a plastic bag ban that requires people to pay 10 cents per bag at the grocery store or bring their own, an ordinance that’s reduced plastic bag litter in storm drains by 89 percent and in creeks by 60 percent, according to a memo signed by Mayor Chuck Reed and council members Sam Liccardo and Rose Herrera.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for August 27, 2013:
• A jobs development program through Work2Future will cost the city $1.7 million through 2014. The nonprofit is the administrative arm of the federal Workforce Investment Act, a law designed to create jobs and better educate the workforce. The jobless rate in San Jose (7.9 percent) remains higher than that of the San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont metro area (6.5 percent). And up to 20 percent of the city is underemployed, the city says.
• Federal law requires the city to submit an annual report about its storm water system, which collects water through 30,000 drain inlets. The goal is to keep the city accountable for reducing pollution carried through the storm water system, whose discharge ends up in the region’s streams and the Bay. This permit is a big reason the city decided to outlaw EPS takeout containers.
• The city got a $233,106 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by way of the county to pay for emergency preparedness training, liaisons with local school districts and some new equipment.
• Architectural services for a Diridon Caltrain station project ran a higher-than-expected tab, pushing the cost up another $188,000 to about $1.36 million.
• Councilwoman Madison Nguyen plans to fly next month to Suwon, South Korea, global HQ for Samsung Corporation, to attend a cultural festival.
• A service agreement with the San Jose Downtown Association will cost the city $390,000. The organization promotes the city’s downtown parking program, downtown businesses, the ice rink and cultural events.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose