Arcata is hoping to get rid of these eventually. Image from pxfuel.

At a special meeting Thursday, the Arcata City Council will discuss adopting an ordinance that would regulate the sale of plastic bottles and single-use containers in the city.

This ordinance would amend the city’s existing ban on the sale of styrofoam containers, which the council passed in 2015. This is the latest step in Arcata’s Zero Waste Action Plan, which aims to reduce the city’s waste by 90 percent by the year 2027.

Arcata’s Environmental Programs Manager Emily Benvie told the Outpost that the ordinance is not in its final draft yet, and the council will not be voting on it during this meeting. After conducting extensive research, staff needs the council to provide clarification on a couple of aspects of the ordinance before it can be finalized.

One of the areas where the council needs to provide clarification, Benvie said, is providing a definition of the word “compostable.” The draft ordinance requires all disposable containers be made of fiber-based, compostable materials. But Benvie said that there are many types of fiber-based materials, some which can still take a long time to break down. Since Arcata does not have an industrial composter, it is important to ensure the containers will be able to break down easily.

The ordinance also proposes that businesses charge customers a 25 cent takeout fee to discourage the use of disposable containers. However, Benvie said that when reaching out to local business owners, many felt that this was not feasible. The council will need to decide if this fee would be mandatory or voluntary. An alternative solution, Benvie said, is asking businesses to offer a discount if customers provide their own reusable containers.

Another decision the council needs to make, Benvie said, is when to grant waivers on the sale of to-go containers, such as for liquids. There aren’t a lot of great alternatives for plastic cups or soup containers, she said.

The ordinance also would potentially ban the sale of plastic bottles on city property. Staff will ask the council to decide if this ban should only include water or should focus on all beverages.

If the council can decide on these details at Thursday’s meeting, staff will make the changes and the ordinance will come back before the council for adoption.

“It is both ambitious and exciting that the city is moving forward with this,” Benvie told the Outpost. “It’s not easy, because it’s a small, rural town without municipal composting. We hope that other smaller cities can follow suit.”

The council will also review the Creek Side Annexation Project — a proposed housing development near Foster Avenue — and will discuss the development of 5G wireless facilities in the city. 

You can learn about these important issues at the Arcata City Council Special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 16 at Arcata City Hall — 736 F Street. 

View the full agenda here.


PREVIOUSLY: Arcata City Council to Consider Banning Plastic Cups, Water Bottles and Other Disposable Food Packaging Items That Are Bad for Gaia