St. Paul restaurants concerned over proposed rule for takeout containers

Leaders in the City of St. Paul claim some types of plastic packaging used for food and drinks is creating a major trash issue, but local businesses say the potential rule is creating major concerns of its own.

A Minnesota Wild game just blocks away at Xcel Energy Center means long lines at Cossetta’s. Hungry people are filling up take-home-style, recyclable, black plastic containers. However, city leaders may ban these types of containers in an effort to be better to the environment.

Records show a proposed ordinance going before the St. Paul City Council Wednesday could make it against the law in retail places to sell food and drinks intended for immediate consumption using containers that are not environmentally acceptable packaging. Documents show unacceptable containers for food retail would be non-compostable, non-returnable and non-recyclable. Hospitals and nursing homes would be exempt from the rule.

“We are committed to the environment part, but the problem is the recycling company will not take the recycled black containers anymore,” said Cossetta’s owner Dave Cossetta.

“I think it would be good,” said Ashley Cochran, who supports the ordinance. “I think we should take in account how much plastic we’re using.”

“I would have to say disagree,” said Julianne Siegrist, who is against the ordinance. “One. You can reuse them at home.”

Cossetta says the ordinance would mean he would have to find a new serving dish option, except he says there’s one problem.

“There’s currently not a replacement container out in the marketplace and also nothing to hold the liquids, so basically there is no replacement currently,” he said.

Cossetta says it would cost him about $350,000 to make the switch in containers.

Ordinance sponsor Council Member Mitra Jalali Nelson released a statement, saying part, “I’m excited to see this sustainable to-go ordinance move forward after years of hard work by community advocates and my predecessors on the council.”

“This was defeated a year and half ago, two new city council members have joined the City Council, there should be another public hearing because they are being asked to vote on something they didn’t hear testimony on,” said Cossetta.

City leaders also pointed out there are financial resources available to help with this possible transition. If passed, it would go into effect in 2021.