By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
MINNEAPOLIS — They came for your plastic bags, and now they’re coming for your take-out trays.
Minneapolis City Councilman Andrew Johnson says the largest city in Minnesota should join an ever-growing list of cities to ban foam containers, like the ones used by many restaurants for take-out food or hot tea and coffee.
In other words, he wants Minneapolis residents to eat cold take-out for the rest of forever.
Johnson did not return calls for comment, but he told KARE-11 that foam containers are bad for the environment and unhealthy for Minnesotans.
But rather than educate the public about the problems with foam containers or encourage businesses to use a different packaging material, Johnson said the best solution is to impose his own preferences on city businesses and their customers.
There’s also an economic angle. It’s not profitable enough to recycle the foam containers (even though it is possible to recycle them, contrary to what environmental groups claim), so Minneapolis and most other cities don’t bother to do it.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, it would cost the city about $20,000 to purchase the necessary equipment to make the recycling process more worth-while.
There are more than 2.6 billion pounds of foam — technically known as “flexible polyurethane” — consumed in the U.S. each year, according to Freedonia, a market research group.
But stopping restaurants in the city from using foam food trays hardly solves the problem. Most of the foam in the environment is the result of packing and shipping supplies, like the giant foam wrappings that come wrapped around new TVs or any other appliance, or used by construction firms.
More than 100 cities in the country already have bans on foam containers, but Minneapolis would be the first city in the Midwest to impose such a rule. Almost all the others are in California.
Banning foam containers might be fine in Los Angeles or Santa Monica. What’s the worst that could happen to your food when the surrounding air is already a balmy 75 degrees at any time of the year?
But good luck keeping that plate of General Tsao’s chicken warm inside a paper container when the industrial-strength freezer of a Minnesota winter is running full blast (on Jan. 6 of this year, the high temperature in the Twin Cities was -12 degrees. Yes, the “high” temperature.)
For his attempt to tell businesses what they use for take-out trays, Johnson brings home our “Nanny-state city of the week” award to Minneapolis. His prize is a plate of cold plate of poutine and lukewarm cup of Caribou coffee.
Full disclosure: The author resides in Minneapolis and enjoys being able to get take-out food and hot beverages back to his apartment while they are still actually warm.
Boehm can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org and follow @EricBoehm87 on Twitter for more.
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