Environmentalists target foam food trays

Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:57pm EST
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By Laura Isensee

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Environmentalists and green businesses are targeting foam food trays used to sell vegetables, fruits and meat in grocery stores.

The ubiquitous trays, which are made from polystyrene, have a long shelf life in landfills, much like plastic bags which the green brigade also took aim at in recent years.

"The developers of expanded polystyrene made the perfect material. They brought the costs down. Functionally it works great. There are no complaints ... But it never goes away," said Richard Feldman, chief executive of G4 Packaging.

The Los Angeles-based company makes trays primarily from sugar cane pulp that can be composted in 90 days or recycled.

Some U.S. cities have started to limit the use of foam trays. Portland, Oregon passed a ban in 1989 and last year Seattle, Washington voted to ban foam containers from all businesses serving food.

Seattle will ratchet up its measure next year. Beginning in July grocery stores will have to stop using foam trays for meat packaged on site and all businesses must use food containers that are compostable, as well as recyclable.

"Most plastics have pretty significant environmental impacts and we didn't want them sent to the landfill," said Dick Lilly, the business area manager for waste prevention at Seattle Public Utilities.

Smaller cities in Washington followed Seattle's lead while the Costa Mesa, California-based nonprofit Earth Resource Foundation is pushing for statewide ban in California.   Continued...