Fayetteville considers proposal to stop buying foam products

Fayetteville City Council members next week will continue discussing a proposal to move away from expanded polystyrene foam.

The ordinance, sponsored by Ward 4 council member Teresa Turk, would prohibit city staff from using city money to purchase foam products. The proposal would also ban the use of foam containers by anyone operating a concession stand or food truck inside city parks and in city-owned parking lots.

Turk said the goal is to raise public awareness of the ecological damages caused by foam. It’s a measure that was unanimously approved by the Environmental Action Committee earlier this year, and is similar to a law passed in Little Rock last year.

“Fayetteville leads on so many different things,” said Turk. “This is just the next step that I hope we can do to help lead by example.”

Turk said if passed, the new law would include a six-month grace period before being enforced. That would allow any vendor who sells food or drinks on city property to use up their existing foam containers instead of immediately having to buy something new.

During the initial discussion on May 7, council member Sarah Marsh suggested amending the ordinance to exclude construction materials used for the purpose of insulating, air sealing, increasing structural stability, reducing weight or form work. The amendment, Marsh said, would allow builders to insulate under concrete slabs, seal pipes, or repair older leaky buildings.

“This would leave us free to use products that are intended to stay with the building and perform for the life of the building,” Marsh said. “These are not single-use products that are thrown away after construction.”

The council agreed, and passed the amendment unanimously.

A handful of residents spoke in favor of the ordinance.

No one spoke in opposition, but some council members discussed expanding the proposal to include private business, and possibly banning other products like single-use plastic bags.

City Attorney Kit Williams said he would prefer to conduct more research before drafting an expanded measure. The council agreed to hold off on any more amendments last week and leave the ordinance on the second reading.

The discussion will continue on May 21.