Civic Center cafe going green with containers
Marin Independent Journal, April 21st, 2006
Link to online version: http://www.marinij.com/marin/ci_3734835
Marin’s “new frontier” of recycling is on its way - at least for diners at the county’s Civic Center cafe.
Starting Tuesday, all take-out containers and disposable plates and cups will be made of biodegradable materials as part of a new agreement between the county and Ray’s Catering, which runs the second-floor dining spot. “With the current petroleum-based packaging, when that goes into a landfill, it stays for years and years,” said Jim Farley, director of the county Department of Cultural and Visitor Services. “When these new products go into a landfill, they’re gone in 45 days.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve a contract Tuesday with Ray’s Catering for a transition to biodegradable food containers at an extra cost of $600 per month - on top of the $4,000 monthly subsidy the county pays to have the firm operate the dining spot. The take-out packages and cups are made from corn-based products, while the disposable plates are made out of sugar cane, Farley said. “We care about the environment, and it’s good business, too,” Farley said, adding that prices on the biodegradable products are coming down rapidly as more people use them. “A subsidy for this program may not be needed by January 2007.” The program is being promoted by Supervisor Charles McGlashan, who led more than 300 Marin residents in a public forum Tuesday at the Civic Center on the concept of “zero waste.” McGlashan said the Civic Center cafe idea came from his office intern, high school student Julie Goldrosen. Goldrosen researched costs and products and presented a report that led to the plan. Ray’s Catering principals Dan and Luke Offenbach contacted suppliers and were able to work out a plan, he said.
“We want to see how a county like Marin, which has done an incredibly good job of diverting waste at curbside, can do an even better job with the next frontier,” McGlashan told the crowd during the three-hour event Tuesday. “Our goal is zero waste by 2020.”
Reuse pioneer Ken Kurtzig of Sausalito says zero waste involves reusing items and products rather than recycling. Reuse is a more cost-efficient idea than recycling because the item does not have to be broken down into raw materials and disposed of, he said.Kurtzig is president and founder of San Rafael-based IReuse, a business that connects Marin residents who have something to get rid of with other residents, businesses or nonprofits that can reuse the product. A small fee is charged.
“I can get your desk that you want to throw out used by somebody down the street - and it will cost you $5 instead of the $50 it would cost in hauling and dumping fees,” he said. “Plus, you’ll be helping the environment by not dumping in landfills and potentially helping a nonprofit by getting them something they need.” Kurtzig said although the Marin Civic Center cafe biodegradable containers need to be disposed of and thus fall short of the reuse concept, they are much better than plastic. “Every unit of plastic that has been produced since the beginning of time is still here,” Kurtzig said. “Compostable materials are much better.”Patty Garbarino, president of Marin Sanitary Service in San Rafael, said she and her father, Marin garbage guru Joe Garbarino, say manufacturers should be required to design and produce items that can be either reused or recycled.“You shouldn’t be able to make money on manufacturing a product that can’t be recycled,” she said.
State lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban Styrofoam at all state buildings by January 2008, Garbarino added.
“It’s all hallelujah here,” she said of efforts to recycle or reuse.
The new food containers at the Marin Civic Center cafe may not have an immediate impact on reducing the amount of trash in the county, but it’s a step in the right direction, Farley said. “I think it’s great that the county is playing a leadership role,” he added. “When you think of the amount of takeout in the world nowadays, if there’s a major shift in these kinds of products, it could affect landfills.”
— MORE INFORMATION
For details on getting rid of household products to reduce waste, see www.ireuse.com. IReuse president Ken Kurtzig will speak at a free public forum from 7 to 9 p.m. May 12 at San Rafael Corporate Center at 750 Lindaro St. in San Rafael.
Contact Keri Brenner via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org