The next phase in sustainable food packaging for restaurants in Issaquah becomes mandatory this week. As of Oct. 1, all food service establishments must comply with chapter 8.07 of the Issaquah Municipal Code, which prohibits the use of polystyrene and non-recyclable disposable food packaging and requires businesses to use recyclable or compostable food packaging.
Since the ordinance was adopted last year, compliance with the requirements has been voluntary. During this initial phase, the city’s Resource Conservation Office (RCO) conducted outreach activities to help businesses make the transition, including presentations, site visits and employee training.
Even with the rules now becoming mandatory, the RCO still wants to be a resource for restaurants not the sustainable packaging police.
“We are taking a technical assistance approach in the first few months,” said RCO Coordinator Micah Bonkowski. Over the next few weeks, consultants will be visiting Issaquah food service establishments, giving advice and directing them to recyclable and compostable resources.
Also helping with this transition are the amendments passed by the Issaquah City Council at its Sept. 20 meeting.
Exempt products expanded
Issaquah’s original ordinance exempted a few items – containers and lids for hot liquid-based foods, utensils and raw meat or seafood containers – because there was no acceptable replacement. During the voluntary phase, however, it became clear that other products were becoming a problem as well.
Following the example set by Seattle, the law has been amended to add temporary exemption status to “foil-back and composite papers used to wrap hot food, straws, cocktail picks, (and) portion cups 2 ounces ad less used for hot food or requiring lids.”
While the Oct. 1 deadline for mandatory compliance hasn’t changed, there was an adjustment on future due dates. The temporary product exemptions listed above, originally scheduled to expire on May 1, 2011, have been extended to July 1, 2011.
The additional two months may not have a major impact on regular food service establishments, but it will impact the school district. As it was originally written, the law would’ve required the schools to change all their packaging for the last month of school. Adjusting the deadline gives them the time to come into compliance by the start of the 2011-12 school year.
The motivation behind adopting the food packaging ordinance was to ensure that Issaquah continues to be proactive in the areas of conservation, waste management and reduction, and environmental health. Amending the law acknowledges that the process is nascent and will require adjustments as businesses put the rules into practice.
For assistance with food packaging compliance, contact the Resource Conservation Office at 425-837-3400 or email@example.com.