Chicago City Council Proposes Cost Hike in Foodservice Ware

By Genpak Product Managers

The City Council of Chicago has proposed a new ordinance that would effectively require food service operators in the city of Chicago, to pay substantially more for their single use food service items, by imposing a ban on those items produced from expanded polystyrene (EPS), which carries the #6 chasing arrows identifier number.

The ordinance, written by Edward Burke, states that food dispensing establishments must use a biodegradable (sometimes referred to as compostable) alternative.  The following highlights are some excerpts from this ordinance.

*  “…polystyrene food service products and disposable food service ware have a significant adverse impact on the environment…” .  My question is, has a city council conducted an environmental impact study to back up this claim, or are they just empty words?  On January 27th, the second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles blocked a ban on plastic bags in  the community of Manhattan Beach because they never conducted an environmental impact report supporting their claims.  It’s easy to say something has a adverse impact on the environment.  It’s quite another thing to back up those claims with proven facts.  It is however a well documented EPA fact (2007 data) that single use food service ware items make up only 1.2% of all materials headed to municipal solid waste streams.  Also, once in a landfill, they do not produce methane which is an ozone depleting substance.

* “ the best interest of the health, safety and welfare of the people…”.  There is no question that single use food service products made from EPS are a sanitary option for food packaging.  Two separate studies have proven that compared to other alternatives, single use EPS packaging provided a more sanitary choice as evident by significantly lower bacterial counts. (Source:

* “…toxic chemicals leach out of such products into food…”.  No they don’t. Don’t mistake the current BPA issue going on with products made from polycarbonate plastic. EPS and polycarbonate are two completely separate materials. Polycarbonate is a clear, fairly shatter resistant plastic used to make things like reusable water bottles and baby bottles. Polystyrene is a FDA approved material for food contact.

The ordinance goes on to state that fines will be imposed of up to $500 for each “offense”. As if being forced into paying more for their single use food service needs wasn’t enough.

Look, I’ve said this before, we are not against alternative materials that are compostable, recyclable and the like. Just the opposite in fact. Genpak was the one of the first manufacturers of food service products to offer a complete line of products from hinged containers to cups that were compostable, back almost four years ago.  We were the first to offer post consumer recycled content into our Hinged Deli containers, which by the way are now endorsed by the Green Restaurant Association. We led the movement to reduce part weights (source reduction) without reducing quality, for microwave safe packaging. And we recently just expanded our compostable line to include our brand new Harvest Fiber products.

It is safe to say that not only do we not oppose alternative materials, but that we are leading the charge. What we are opposed to is having a local municipality shove an ordinance that will be an economic burden, down the throats of the very institutions that make that community great. Those of you that have visited the city of Chicago know the choices for an excellent dinning experience is endless. We are opposed to bureaucrats picking an easy target to attack, such as EPS, without doing the homework to review its overall effect on the community. If successful, will this ban simply replace one type of litter for another more expensive kind? Are there sufficient composting facilities in the area that accept food grade waste? Will a diversion plan be put into play to send materials to a proper facility? Has a more attention been given to public trash receptacles? The list of questions goes on and on. Maybe all these concerns have been addressed. If so, I applaud the council. If not, then this ban should be stopped.