Minneapolis could soon join dozens of other cities around the country in banning restaurants from offering food in foam containers.

Council Member Andrew Johnson will introduce an ordinance next Friday that would prohibit restaurants from using expanded polystyrene – commonly recognized as Styrofoam – in an effort to protect customers’ health and improve the city’s recycling system.

As Minneapolis considers how to be a “zero waste” city, Johnson said the foam is not economical to recycle.

“And frankly, it only delays the inevitable, which is that society is evolving away from Styrofoam completely,” said the rookie council member from south Minneapolis.

Johnson said the measure builds on an ordinance from the early 1990s that was not enforced.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association says it is unlikely to oppose the move, though some members have concerns about the January 1 effective date.

“Many of my members have reported back that they’ve already moved away from foam packaging,” said Dan McElroy, the association’s president.

The city currently collects recyclable materials from most residential buildings, while businesses contract with private haulers.

City recycling coordinator Kellie Kish said that if Minneapolis were to try to recycle Styrofoam, it would ask customers to clean the containers and put them in plastic bags.

But plastic bags are already the top contaminant in the city’s single-sort recycling program, she said, so doing that “would go against all of the education we’ve been doing.”

Photo: Taken by Flickr user mollyali, used under Creative Commons license.