Adopt Reusable Foodware Ordinance - YES
Last year, we were approached by the County with an ask: they had just passed a reusable foodware ordinance that made great strides toward reducing plastic waste from foodware, and they wanted us to adopt an identical ordinance. While we agreed that something needed to be done about all this plastic waste, we had concerns that their approach would create a thicket of confusing new regulations for local businesses, while allowing many different kinds of plastic foodware to remain in use into the foreseeable future.
We always value coordination with the County, but in this case, we decided we needed to take an approach that was a better fit with our goals of pivoting away from fossil fuels and streamlining local government. What followed was months of engaged discussions with our community and local businesses, and the result was well worth the effort: today, I was proud to vote yes on a Reusable Foodware Ordinance that will make Corte Madera the first city in Marin County to effectively ban single-use plastic foodware!
The key difference between our approach and the County’s ordinance is that the County ordinance only recognizes two types of foodware: compostable natural fiber (like wood or paper), or plastic. The County requires natural fiber foodware where it’s available, but for many types of foodware (like hot beverage cups), there’s no natural fiber alternative available. For these cases, the County created a complicated system of exemptions that ultimately allows businesses to continue using plastics made from fossil fuels, which are carbon-intensive to create and don’t biodegrade.
In Corte Madera, we will only allow compostable foodware. But unlike the County, which only recognizes wood or paper as compostable, we will also recognize compostable bioplastic products that are certified to biodegrade without leaving behind harmful chemicals. Since there are bioplastic products already available for all kinds of foodware, this means we do not need to allow an exemption for petro-plastics.
To be sure, there are knock-on challenges around composting bioplastics in local facilities, so our approach isn’t perfect—but it helps us pivot away from fossil fuels in a way the County ordinance doesn’t, and I’m confident it’s the best we could do given the circumstances. I see compostable bioplastics as a temporary solution, and my hope is that, within a few years, we will have natural fiber solutions for all our foodware needs, which are even less resource-intensive to make.