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Medford council votes to ban Styrofoam

Polystyrene containers have been mostly banned in Medford, thanks to the efforts of a St. Mary’s senior and the City Council.

On Thursday night, the council unanimously approved an ordinance that will help end the use of polystyrene containers — commonly known by the brand name of Styrofoam. The idea was championed by 18-year-old Sam Becker, who had gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in May.

“I’m excited and relieved,” Becker said. “I plan on getting in contact with Sen. Alan Bates and take this to a statewide level.”

The ordinance, which takes effect immediately, provides exceptions for businesses that generate less than $300,000 annually or can’t find a substitute for polystyrene. Businesses will also be allowed to use up their existing stock of foam containers as they transition to another product.

A business could receive a citation for failing to adhere to the new ordinance, but city Recorder Glenda Wilson said the city doesn’t expect any problems.

“The goal will be to educate and get voluntary compliance,” Wilson said. According to Medford Municipal Code, the fine would be $250.

Becker, student body president at St. Mary's, gathered 3,218 signatures to qualify for the May 19 ballot, but the city determined it would cost up to $40,000 to hold an election for just that one ballot measure. As a result, the council sent letters out to 500 businesses to determine local reaction to the ban. A majority of the reaction was positive.

The council avoided the cost of the ballot initiative by approving the ordinance.

A majority of businesses that spoke at a public hearing Thursday night supported the ordinance, but several businesses opposed it, including Kentucky Fried Chicken and Jasper’s Cafe in Medford.

But owners from Papa Murphy’s, Bambu Restaurant, Sunrise Cafe, Limestone Coffee Company and other restaurants spoke in favor of the ordinance.

Many cities in the U.S. have banned polystyrene containers, including Ashland and Eugene.

“I deeply express my gratitude to my family for their support and to my friends and community members for helping me reach my goal,” Becker said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

St. Mary's student Sam Becker's efforts led the Medford City Council to vote Thursday to ban polystyrene containers. Mail Tribune / flie photo