Jan 6 - Petition to Repeal San Jose Foam Ban Lacks Sufficient Signatures

On the first day of 2014, the City of San Jose's foam food container ordinance was implemented throughout restaurant chain locations in the city, and according to a memo from the San Jose City Clerk, the ban will continue to stay in place despite recent efforts by opposition to place a repeal of the ordinance on the next ballot.

Last summer, the City adopted the foam ordinance which, at that time, was the largest in the nation (since then New York City has adopted its own ordinance).

In October of 2013, a petition to overturn the ordinance through a public vote was circulated. According to media reports, the initiative was submitted by a contractor for the California Restaurant Association, which has opposed statewide initiatives on foam container bans in the past.

A valid petition to make it to the ballot required 20,946 valid signatures from registered San Jose voters. Amid complaints of misleading language and "shady" signature-gathering tactics, including reports that the company gathering the information was urging employees to falsify signatures, hiring homeless citizens, and paying them with zero balance gift cards, the petition was submitted to the County Registrar of Voters with supposedly double the amount of signatures needed.

On Friday, the City Clerk's memo reported an insufficient amount of valid signatures after a full verification process of all 38,784 signatures. Over 1,000 signatures were found to be duplicates.

The petition proposed to repeal the ban and expand the recycling program to include expanded polystyrene (eps) foam. But recyclers lose money when they collect eps for recycling. The market price is for recycled foam is lower than the cost to process eps foam. Moreover, foam is lightweight, prone to breaking down into small pieces that are hard to clean up, and extremely difficult to recycle once contaminated with food products. Learn more about the problem of eps litter.

After this first stage of implementation in larger restaurants, the ordinance will expand to cover all other food service providers by January 1, 2015.