No Styrofoam takeout boxes for Minneapolis eateries as new rules take effect

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If you're ordering takeout in Minneapolis tonight, you won't be getting your food served in a styrofoam box.

That's because new rules have come into force Tuesday (coinciding with Earth Day) that mean restaurants, grocery stores and food trucks that offer food or drink "for immediate consumption or takeout" must from now on use reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.

The new ordinance, confirmed by Minneapolis City Council, should bring an end to the use of polystyrene foam "clam-shells" that are commonly used by some food establishments.

It will cover takeout containers, plates, serving boats and to-go boxes.

The change has been on the cards for a year, with the city council agreeing last May to a proposal sponsored by Ward 12 council member Andrew Johnson, who had argued that as many as 10 million Styrofoam (a brand of polystyrene) containers were going into Minneapolis' trash every year.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association has previously said city businesses should be able to cope with the changes.

A few exceptions

There are a couple of exceptions to this new rule.

Anyone who sells food or drinks in cups or bowls made of plastic-lined paper (which is not recyclable or compostable) will be allowed to continue doing so until April 22, 2017.

Also written into the ordinance is an exemption for hospitals and nursing homes, as well as packaging that is not environmentally acceptable, but there is no alternative available.

Any food or drink vendor found in contravention of the ordinance will be hit with a fine.

Businesses will be allowed to use up their remaining stock of noncompliant packaging, while city and Hennepin County grants of up to $50,000 are available to help them improve their on-site recycling facilities.

Help from consumers

The city is asking for people who received their food in recyclable packaging from now on to make sure they scrape food off the boxes before they recycle it, otherwise it will go to landfill.

They also want customers to tell them if a restaurant isn't using the right packaging in future by calling 311.

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