New rules for food packaging in Minneapolis

Friday, Mar 13, 2015

Styrofoam has got to go at restaurants and businesses that serve food in Minneapolis. Starting next month, all food must be served in environmentally friendly packaging.

Enrique Salazar was among 250 business owners trying to learn more about the new rules at a Packaging Fair that showcased environmentally friendly containers and cups.

"It is going to cost more money, but we got a lot of complaints from my customers that we use the Styrofoam," Salazar said. "As a business owner, at first we were like, 'what.'"

The Director of Environmental Health with Minneapolis Health Department, Daniel Huff, and other experts were on hand to answer questions. Determining what is approved can be confusing: some paper cups appear to meet recycling standards, but they don't because they are lined with plastic.

The ordinance requires food and beverages prepared for immediate consumption or for takeout to be placed in reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging. In addition, recyclable materials used onsite must be recycled, and compostable materials used onsite must be composted. The rules apply to all food establishments that serve or give away food prepared on site for immediate consumption. This includes all restaurants, grocery store deli cases, food trucks and other mobile vendors, and temporary, short-term and seasonal food vendors.

Paul Fournier, who manages D. Brian's All Natural Deli in Minneapolis said he started using environmentally friendly products at all of his restaurants in 2010. Most of his customers order their meals to go.

"We have a lot of packaging that goes out the door. A lot of bowls and cups and coffee cups," he said "Our waste stream was big so we thought what was the best way to help the environment was by moving to recyclable content."

Multiple sales representatives, including Rich Wade of Sabert, said foam containers cost about 10 cents and the alternative costs 22 cents. He also said depending on the size of the package, business owners could pay anywhere between 10 and 25 percent extra per year for packaging supplies.

Hennepin County representatives told business owners about resources to help with the expense. For example, the county offers business grants up to $50,000 to assist with the following:

• Starting or improving recycling and organics programs.

• Bin and equipment purchases.

• Installation.

• Improvements to loading docks and fenced in areas for waste containers.

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