San Francisco Bay Area Foaming About Foam
Oakland, Calif., is on a tear about litter and environmental pollution. Just months after passing an ordinance that taxes fast food restaurants and c-stores to cover the cost of cleaning up food-related litter, the city council issued a final vote June 27 to ban the use of polystyrene foam takeout packaging and disposables such as plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, etc.
The new law, effective Jan. 1, instead calls for the use of biodegradable or compostable alternatives.
You may be eligible for an exemption, however, if you can't find an "affordable" alternative, which the city defines as one that is equal or less in cost than non-biodegradable packaging. If you want to use biodegradable disposables but can't find "affordable" ones, you can charge customers a "take-out fee" to cover the difference, the city says.
If you don't comply, you get a warning. After that, fines start at $100 and go up to $500 for successive violations.
Roughly a hundred jurisdictions have banned polystyrene foam over the past two decades.
How long until neighboring San Francisco follows suit? Any day now, apparently. At press time, its city government was poised to vote on similar legislation. Stay tuned.
Mercury Reduction Laws Slip Into Effect
Mercury is nasty stuff, and in an effort to reduce it in landfills, states are passing laws cutting the amount of it that's permissible in a wide variety of products.
What, you might wonder, does that have to do with you?
Plenty, heavy-metals breath. Products with more than 1,000 mg. of mercury include flame sensors, electricity meters, thermometers, thermostats, barometers, manometers and mercury vapor lampsand all became illegal in Connecticut in 2004 and in Rhode Island on Jan. 1 this year.
To stay on top of changes, check out the Interstate Mercury Education & Reduction Clearinghouse at http://www.newmoa.org/prevention/mercury/imerc.cfm
South Carolina Says Okay To Rare Burgers
You like medium-rare burgers? Would you like to give them to customers who like them? Burger-loving legislators in South Carolina thought so. They recently passed a bill that would allow restaurants to serve burgers cooked to less than 155°F.
There is a catchtwo, in fact. First, customers can only request undercooked burgers if they're 18 or older. And participating restaurants must post a disclaimer telling customers that they can't be held liable if customers get sick.
The bill still has to go to the governor's desk for a signature.
Smokers On The Run, Hither And Yon
Restaurant operators used to fear that smoking bans would hurt business. Now, it's looking more like smoking bans will just save you the money you used to spend cleaning up after smokers.
Bits from around planet Earth: The Howard County, Md., council voted in June to make that county smoke-free. That makes it the fourth county in the state to enact a smoking ban. Located midway between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., the county now prohibits smoking in all public places, including outdoors within 15 feet of doors and windows. Some outdoor entertainment and sporting events are exempt.
Halfway around the world, the smoking ban that was supposed to be effective May 8 on Guam has been challenged by the local attorney general. The law says that bars, hotel rooms, tobacco stores and some other locations can be exempted if they have a filtration system that's approved by the health department and meets ASHRAE specs. Trouble is, no such specs exist. The AG says the actual ban should still be enforced but requests some clarification of the intent of the wording in the law.
Meanwhile, back in Urbana, Ill., University of Illinois students have been waiting to exhale ever since the city council voted to adopt a smoking ban. The town next door, Champaign, had already confirmed an ordinance, but it was predicated on Urbana also passing some version of its own. The two laws are similar, both allowing smoking on outdoor patios, but Urbana's ordinance requires that 50% of outdoor seating areas be smoke-free.
Elsewhere, competition for the title of Smack-That-Smoker-Silly Champion is fierce. Billed as the "world's toughest" clean air law, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act took effect the end of last month. The Canadian law prohibits smoking in all public places, including restaurants, bars, casinos, clubs and sports venues, many of which are exempt in other areas with clean air laws. The act also prohibits smoking in outdoor areas covered by a roof or awning.
But that "world's toughest" title isn't going uncontested. Ontario may not have noticed Calabasas, Calif., when it decided to brag about tough smoking laws. The little town north of Malibu has had a smoking ban in effect since March that not only prohibits smoking indoors, but outdoors as well, except in specially designated areas. The idea was to reduce litter in addition to protecting people's health.