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Pittsfield Retailers Mistakenly Still Violating Polystyrene Ban
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
02:33AM / Tuesday, October 18, 2016
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Jim McGrath told the Green Commission than many retailers have switched to the plastic containers, which are still illegal.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Board of Health is discovering that many vendors may be inadvertently still using the banned polystyrene food containers.
 
The Green Commission was updated on the Styrofoam ban Monday night in which member Jim McGrath reported that many businesses have swapped out the white clamshell Styrofoam containers in the favor of clear plastic containers. However, those clear plastic containers are still polystyrene, which is banned.
 
"They all are made of essentially the same material," McGrath told the Green Committee. "Retailers made the switch to what they thought was a responsible, acceptable product." 
 
The Green Commission recognized that the ban had just gone into effect in July and that the language defining what exactly was banned was convoluted. So, the commission is asking the Board of Health to send out follow up letters to the city's retailers making it clearer what is and is not banned. Further, the commission is looking to issue a press release providing a more clear wording of what is banned.
 
"It is a great teaching moment," said Green Commissioner Nancy Nylen." It was so steeped in definitions that it wasn't easily understood." 
 
McGrath said the plastic containers with the recycling code of 6PS is not recyclable by the city's haulers. That polystyrene product may look different than the traditional Styrofoam but is, in fact, the same. 
 
"If an inspection happens, this is something that is not allowable," McGrath said.
 
McGrath said he didn't know how widespread the issue is among vendors. Last October, the City Council approved the ban on polystyrene food containers and most know the material as being the white Styrofoam. The ban went into effect on July 1 and most vendors have made a switch.
 
Those not in compliance would face fines, but McGrath said he doesn't believe any company has been fined for the plastic containers many have switched to yet. The commission feels there should be some leeway given because the ban is new and is urging companies to double check the materials the food containers are made from.
 
However, McGrath said he wants to avoid advocating for any specific product, just that whatever container it is, is compliant.
 
Filed around the same time of the polystyrene ban is a petition from attorney Rinaldo Del Gallo to ban single-use plastic bags. The Green Commission has reviewed that at many levels and is now considering whether or not it will endorse it.
 
"It seems like this is the time," Nylen said of rendering an opinion.
 
But, the group did not take a vote on it Monday but rather is going to publicize its next meeting as one to hear from the community on it before taking a stance.
 
"I don't know how the community feels about it," Chairman Joseph LaRoche said.
 
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo suggested the ban would be one that could go on the ballot in 2017. While other communities who have passed such a ban hasn't had much opposition, Caccamo said Pittsfield has much more corporate retail using the bags. The City Council has the ability to put it on the ballot.
 
"We don't per se have to endorse it either way," Caccamo said.
 
However, McGrath said the commission should take a stance on it and allow the City Council to determine how to go about it - whether it be a vote of the council or by a ballot vote.
 
"This commission needs to take a vote as to what our stance is, how do we feel?" McGrath said, adding that the commission is advisory in nature. "This commission can and should take a leadership position."
 
The commission opted to delay the vote until the next meeting to hear more from the community before deciding whether or not it will endorse the petition.
 
Also at the next meeting, the Commission is asking Mark Cappadona from Colonial Power for an update on the next phase of the municipal aggregation plan. The city is moving forward what is essentially a group buy for all of the residential electrical supply.
 
Colonial Power will craft  a request for proposals from power generators to supply the power to all of the households. The utility company, such as Eversource, would remain those providing the service and collecting bills but would be getting the supply from whichever company the city picks.
 
In crafting that RFP, the city does have various options such as requiring the power comes from renewable sources or otherwise. The state Department of Utilities is expected to grant the order allowing the city to go forward with the aggregation in November and the RFP would be crafted shortly after.
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