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Plastic Packaging Used by Restaurants Banned : Berkeley Acts on Ozone Layer Peril

September 24, 1987|Special to The Times

BERKELEY — Fast-food restaurants here will no longer be allowed to use foam plastic packaging made with chlorofluorocarbons because of the threat they pose to the Earth's ozone layer, the Berkeley City Council decided unanimously early Wednesday.

City officials said they believe Berkeley is the first community in the nation to ban foam plastic food containers manufactured with chlorofluorocarbons although Suffolk County, N.Y., has such legislation pending.

Environmentalists say chlorofluorocarbons, used to give foam plastic its puffiness, are released during the manufacturing process into the atmosphere where it attacks the ozone layer.

Ozone shields the Earth from dangerous levels of ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer. Every 1% decrease in ozone allows 2% more ultraviolet rays to reach the ground. Many scientists believe there already has been at least a 3% reduction in the ozone layer.

"One action by one city will not cause the ozone layer to be saved," said Councilwoman Nancy Skinner, "but if other communities do similar things and the EPA (Environmental Protection Administration) makes strong guidelines, then I think this action will have an effect."

Beverly Kelly, who was a member of the city's Solid Waste Management Commission that recommended banning the material, said several other cities--including Ann Arbor, Mich., Palo Alto, Santa Monica and New York City--have asked Berkeley for information on the problem and apparently are considering such bans.

The council, in its post-midnight action at the end of a long meeting, also approved the commission's recommendation that fast-food merchants be asked to voluntarily cut their use of non-biodegradable packaging by half.

Both proposals will take effect Feb. 1.

The council sent back to the commission for further consideration, however, a recommendation that all fast-food restaurants, markets and mini-markets be prohibited from using any kind of plastic packaging by 1990. A staff report said it would be too expensive for businesses to comply with such a law.

That move by the council, at least, pleased Society of Plastics Industry official Roger Bernstein, who lobbied the council against any ban. He said the chlorofluorocarbon-produced foam plastic represents only 1% of all chlorofluorocarbon products on the market and he noted that there is a worldwide move to abandon or sharply reduce the use of such products anyway.

"What Berkeley wanted to do was make a statement, and I'm not opposed to that," Bernstein said.

Some merchants who opposed the foam plastic ban said they were for it in principle, but decried further government regulation of their businesses.

"As an individual, I fully agree with it," said Frank Kalmar, co-owner of Lox Stock & Bagel, a chain of six delicatessens including one in Berkeley. "CFCs are attacking our ozone layer and we need to do something about it. . . . But anytime the government gets involved, it means more paper work and more administrative time and it makes it real tough for the little guy."

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