KOMB starts a Mountain Area push to switch off polystyrenes

Last month’s column described polystyrene’s harmful effects on people and the environment. So what can we as a community do to ditch it? Some of our local restaurants have already started. (Restaurants are major users of polystyrene for carry-out cartons.) Mark Neff, owner of the Wild Fig restaurant in Coarsegold Village, said, “Sure, it costs a little more, but it’s nicer for the environment,” when I talked to him about using biodegradable and compostable takeout boxes for leftovers.

We can be trend-starters! As individuals, we can ask our favorite restaurants and takeout places to switch to eco-friendly packaging and containers. Let’s make the Mountain Area a cleaner, greener community. KOMB trash picker-uppers will thank you, our landfill will thank you, and future generations will thank you.

California lawmakers have tried several times over the last 10 years to ban the use of polystyrene, but such legislation has been rejected repeatedly. But there are 116 cities and counties in California that have banned polystyrene, according to Californians Against Waste (cawrecycles.org).

The city of San Francisco has the most comprehensive ban on polystyrene in the nation. All takeout food packaging must be recyclable or compostable, including egg cartons, meat trays, packing materials, coolers, pool and beach toys, and floats and buoys.

Compostable and biodegradable food containers are made from interesting things, some unpronounceable like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic which is flexible, lightweight and recyclable. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a biodegradable plastic made of cornstarch, usable only for cold products. Double poly coated paper products are durable and moisture resistant. Sugarcane/Bagasse is a natural byproduct of sugarcane that uses fiber from crushed stalks. It requires minimal processing and bleaching, making a high-strength paper that is biodegradable and compostable, and is more energy efficient to produce than paper pulp wood products. Wheat straw is made from wheat, easily renewable and biodegradable.

The above information came from greenpaperproducts.com and webstaurant.com. Both are excellent resources for information and products. Other relevant online sites are Greenstaurant.com and Papermart.com, and ecoproductsstore.com.

An order of 200 clamshell containers (9x9x3 inch single or three compartment containers) runs anywhere from $60 to $86 – a cost of 30 to 43 cents for each container, although greater quantity orders most likely would result in lower costs. Would you be willing to pay 40 cents for a takeout container? I know I would. Perhaps restaurants could recover their costs with a donation jar for those who use the earth-friendly containers for their leftovers or takeout order.

Kara Lough, kitchen manager at Love Café in Oakhurst told me they buy their takeout food containers from Greenproducts.com, and that “all is compostable.” Thank you Tricia Tracy for opening Love Café and for “going green.”

KOMB in the community

Keep Our Mountains Beautiful (KOMB) picks up litter throughout Eastern Madera County. Its next meeting is Thursday, Aug. 30, 6:30 p.m. at Round Table Pizza in Oakhurst. Everyone is welcome. Details: Contact komb4emc@gmail.com or Sandee Scott at 559-760-1058.