Within two years, black plastic carryout containers and plastic foam cups will be a thing of the past at St. Paul restaurants.

The City Council voted 5-2 Wednesday evening to ban nonrecyclable food takeout containers after years of discussion and public debate. The vote brings the capital city in line with Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, which have implemented plastic bans in recent years.

"The U.N. has made clear: We have about three City Council terms to take local action on climate change before we face irreversible consequences," said Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson. "And improving our waste streams and rewarding businesses who are leading the way on sustainability is one thing, of many, that we can do at the city level."

Businesses will have until Jan. 1, 2021, to comply with the plastic ban. The city will provide exemptions when businesses can't find suitable alternatives to nonrecyclable packaging, Nelson said.

Nelson was joined by Council President Amy Brendmoen and Council Members Jane Prince, Dai Thao and Chris Tolbert in approving the change. Council Members Rebecca Noecker and Kassim Busuri voted against the ban, saying it puts too much pressure on small businesses.

"We're a city government. We can take on big plastic and big foam and manufacturers," Noecker said. "We don't have to ask small businesses to shoulder all the burden of reducing our waste stream."

Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509