Customers used to leave Mesa Pizza’s Stadium Village location with a slice of pizza in a plastic foam box. Now, the counter attendant slides a single slice onto a paper plate and hands customers a paper bag.
“It acts like a cover,” general manager Wade Kapphahn said.
Mesa’s paper bag is an example of new takeout methods Minneapolis restaurants are using to comply with a revised city ordinance that took effect Wednesday calling for more environmentally acceptable food packaging.
The ordinance asks restaurants, grocery store delis and food trucks — to name a few — to package their ready-to-eat food in recyclable or compostable containers as a step toward the city’s zero-waste goal.
Kapphahn said he sometimes sandwiches a slice of pizza between two paper plates before putting it in the bag to keep it from sliding around.
“We’re hearing about lots of people getting creative and lots of interesting options out there,” said Dan McElroy, executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association.
The city updated the ordinance about a year ago and gave local vendors until the 45th annual Earth Day to comply with the new rules.
McElroy said some restaurants now wrap spaghetti and meatballs in tin foil because it doesn’t leak and others package meals in butcher paper. Pizza in a bag, he said, is a new one.
Kapphahn said the bag is an affordable substitute for the plastic foam containers, adding that it’s usually used only for one or two slices. Mesa has cardboard boxes for larger orders.
“The bags are just more straightforward; I actually prefer it,” Kapphahn said.
Minneapolis is one of several U.S. cities updating its ban on polystyrene foam. But McElroy said the scope of the revised ordinance goes beyond the foam. It also prevents vendors from using rigid polystyrene, the material used to make red Solo cups and certain types of soup bowls, among other items.
He said the ordinance’s goal is to get businesses using reusable, compostable and recyclable materials.
Brit’s Pub downtown now pays triple what it used to in order to send a few hundred customers home with their food each week, said Greg Coppock, the restaurant’s assistant executive chef.
The restaurant began ordering the new containers last week but ran out of the banned product Wednesday.
Businesses can run out their current supply of noncompliant packaging, rather than throwing it away, but then must make the switch.
Exemptions include cutlery, straws and other items that aren’t used for packaging. Catering companies with a Minneapolis or other city or state license, as well as hospitals and nursing homes are also excluded from the rules.
Hennepin County is providing grants up to $50,000 to help businesses make the change as well as offering free bin setup, promotional materials and estimates of cost savings.
The updated ordinance still allows cups and bowls to be made of plastic-lined paper, which isn’t recyclable or compostable, but those will be phased out in April 2017, according to a Minneapolis news release.