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Continued: Minneapolis restaurants are ready to get rid of foam containers

A study for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency found last year that about 1 percent of the state’s trash by weight was polystyrene.

Under the revised ordinance, city health and food inspectors will be required to check for Styrofoam, and the public will be able to report violations on the city’s website. Violators will have to pay an administrative fee.

As more cities have adopted bans on foam, some of the large chains have adjusted, too.

McDonald’s announced last year that it would replace foam coffee cups with paper ones. Dunkin’ Donuts has been testing a paper coffee cup and said it hopes to introduce an alternative cup within a couple of years.

Golden Valley-based Buffalo Wild Wings stopped using foam takeout containers on the West Coast in 2006 when it opened a restaurant in Portland, Ore., where foam had already been banned. The chain switched to using paper takeout containers at all of its restaurants two years later.

A spokeswoman said the chain’s restaurant by the University of Minnesota will change some other packaging — beverage and soup containers, for example — as a result of the Minneapolis ordinance.

Famous Dave’s of America only uses foam containers for its doggy bags at locations that don’t have bans, said Jeff Abramson, vice president of purchasing for the Minnetonka-based company. The chain will have to find alternatives for its Calhoun Square location, but figures it will be a negligible price increase.

“It’s usually more expensive, but it’s a pretty low-use item,” he said.

Jim Moss, sales director at Packaging Sales Inc. in Plymouth, said that while using an alternative to polystyrene may triple the cost from 10 cents to 30 cents, it can be hidden in the cost of a $9, $12 or $15 dinner.

One good alternative is polypropylene, which most consumers know as a rotisserie chicken container, he said. And prices on that are coming down. It cost 50 to 60 cents apiece 10 years ago, but it’s 30 cents now and a far superior product, Moss said.

“Restaurants do not have to be in a state of chaos about this,” he said.

Kian Salehi, co-owner of Bite Squad, the restaurant delivery service in the Twin Cities, decided to use more environmentally friendly containers when the business launched in 2012. Foam containers can melt when hot food is placed in them and there’s the spillage issue, he said.

“Containers today are much better in terms of design. They don’t fog, they have a clear top, they can be reheated in the same container, and you can use a knife to cut food in them,” Salehi said. “The cost is more but they work so much better than Styrofoam.”

Donna Fahs, Parasole Restaurant Holdings’ chief operating officer, said most of the company’s restaurants including Chino Latino and Mozza Mia use corn starch-based compostable products. The company hasn’t used Styrofoam containers for years, she said. “The public perception of them is wretched.”

 

kavita.kumar@startribune.com • 612-673-4113 jewoldt@startribune.com • 612-673-7633

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