Manteca is exploring the possibility of becoming the first jurisdiction in the San Joaquin Valley to ban the use of non-compostable containers, cups and utensils for takeout food.
The City Council, after hearing a request from a resident at Tuesday’s meeting to do just that instructed staff to research what such a move would entail and report back to the council.
The Californians Against Waste website notes there are 120 cities or counties in the state — roughly just under a fourth of all jurisdictions — that already ban items made out of polystyrene that are neither compostable or recyclable in today’s recycling market. Davis is the only jurisdiction in the Great Central Valley that stretches from Bakersfield to Redding that has such a ban.
And if the council ultimately adopts the vision outlined by the resident, Manteca would one up Davis by also requiring restaurant customers to pay 25 cents for a disposable cup or else bring their own. That is similar to a landmark ordinance Berkeley adopted in January that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
The Berkeley ordinance also allows disposable items like utensils, straws and napkins to be available only upon request or at self-serve stations. It also requires that takeout food be served only using compostable dishes and utensils by January 2020. At the same time dine-in food will be served only using reusable dishes and utensils by July 2020.
That means a casual dining place such as Chipolte Mexican Grill in Berkeley would be required to provide dine in patrons with reusable utensils and dishes used for their burrito bowls instead of the same containers that are used for takeout orders. It also would ban aluminum they use to cover the takeout burrito bowls.
Considering such rules in Manteca is a logical extension of existing city efforts to reduce waste.
The city’s nationally acclaimed food waste to fuel program that that has been up and running for several weeks will have an official ribbon cutting on Tuesday at the wastewater treatment plant. It is diverting food waste that would normally end up landfilled and combined with methane gas produced from the treatment of wastewater to make clean burning compressed gas to power all of the city’s solid waste truck fleet. That eliminates methane pollution as the gas generated from the treatment process would otherwise have to be burned off and create air quality issues. It also eliminates the use of diesel to power the solid waste trucks.
Takeout food and their packaging is also a big part of the Manteca waste stream apparently due to the high concentration of long-range commuters that tend to eat out more often. That observation was based on an outside “audit” of random residential garbage carts about five years ago that showed roughly 40 percent of garbage was classified as fast food and accompanying containers as well as items such as pizza boxes and takeout bags. The city’s solid waste manager at the time — Rexie LeStrange who has since retired — indicated the consultant said that was one of the highest percentage of fast food waste he had ever come across.
The city is also in the preliminary stages of exploring the feasibility of establishing their own recycling sorting and composting facility at the wastewater treatment plant to reduce the amount of waste that is being buried including truckloads of recyclable materials that residents keep contaminating with garbage to render it useless in the recycling market that still exists for some items.
The city, instead of waiting for domestic re-manufacturing markets to be established, is trying to find a way to have more control of the solid waste stream generated by Manteca’s 85,000 residents as well as businesses going forward.
The goal is for the city is to be able to take residential food waste along with fiber based waste such as newspapers and product boxes for items like cereal and combine them with yard waste to make compost. Polystyrene products that now dominate the Manteca food takeout market are not compostable meaning they would still have to be landfilled even if Manteca invested in its own sorting and composting facility.
No timetable was given as to when the council would be presented with information on pursuing a possible ban on non-compostable takeout containers.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org