WALNUT CREEK -- By the end of the year, plastic bags and foam takeout containers will be off the menu at Walnut Creek restaurants.

City leaders on Tuesday banned polystyrene-based disposable food serviceware for all food vendors, and upheld their earlier decision to include restaurants in a ban on plastic bags.

The ban of what is commonly called "styrofoam" applies to all restaurants, coffee shops, cafeterias and mobile food trucks that currently use the containers to serve takeout food. The ordinance exempts prepared foods that have been packaged outside the city, coolers or ice chests and certain emergency situations. But it applies to all city food contractors.

Councilwoman Cindy Silva called the ban "long overdue."

The council voted 4-1 for the ban, with Councilman Justin Wedel the lone "no" vote. He didn't feel enough research had been done on the impacts such a ban would have on businesses and the environment, he said.

This is the same reasoning behind his opposition to the ban on plastic bags, which was also discussed at Tuesday's meeting.

"This council does not want to look at the adverse impacts these types of bans have on our community," Wedel said, calling it a sad day for the city.


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Restaurateurs from around Walnut Creek asked the council to exclude them from the plastic bag ban. Owners of restaurants including Rocco's Ristorante & Pizzeria, Lark Creek and Il Fornaio -- some of which already use paper bags -- said the bag ban will cost restaurants more money. The cost of doing business in Walnut Creek, they said, is already high enough. Some also warned the council that paper bags expose them to lawsuits if a paper bag fails and hot food spills and burns a customer.

"It seems like this is going really after the small business of the city," said Rolla Ghaben, co-owner of Hubcaps and Mel's Diner. "Small guys like us are using the plastic bags and are able to afford the plastic bags and it works for our industry."

Restaurant owners and managers asked the council to hold-off on the ban and see if the state legislature passes its own ban.

A bill already in the works excludes restaurants. Restaurants owners said they should be excluded because paper bags are not sufficient for hot takeout food.

Mayor Kristina Lawson said it's a bad idea to make exemptions because they dilute the law. And Councilman Bob Simmons said Walnut Creek has waited long enough to ban plastic bags, and shouldn't wait for a state law banning bags.

"We for a long time agreed that we wanted the state to act first and they did not," he said. "I believe the only reason the state is acting now is because local governments are starting to act."

The plastic bag ban will go into effect in September for grocery stores and other retailers and Dec. 18 for restaurants -- the same day as the polystyrene ban.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.

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