Fayetteville council votes to stop buying foam, and discusses possible city-wide ban

The Fayetteville City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to move away from expanded polystyrene foam.

The ordinance, sponsored by Ward 4 council member Teresa Turk, prohibits city staff from using city money to purchase foam products. The new law also bans 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 containers. 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.”

The new law will take effect Nov. 1. Turk said the extended grace period was included to 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.

The law makes an exception for construction materials used for the purpose of insulating, air sealing, increasing structural stability, reducing weight or form work. The exception, suggested by council member Sarah Marsh, allows builders to use expanded polystyrene foam for various city construction projects to insulate under concrete slabs, seal pipes, or repair older leaky buildings without being in violation of the ordinance.

Support for more

The proposal had full support from the council, but some members said they wish it went further.

Council member Mark Kinion said he was ready to vote for a city-wide foam container ban. Other ideas for an expanded ban were also discussed.

Council member Sloan Scroggin asked City Attorney Kit Williams what his thoughts are on a more aggressive ordinance.

Williams said while he’s personally in favor of an expanded measure, it would be wise to start in a more conservative manner to ensure success of the initiative.

Williams said it’s likely that the current state legislature would attempt to pass a law that would overturn an outright ban on foam, but because their next regular sessions isn’t for another two years, a careful, incremental ban could give other cities time to observe how Fayetteville’s law is coming along and possibly pass similar laws. The more statewide support the issue receives, he said, the less likely it would be to receive backlash from the legislature.

Williams promised to begin exploring ways to expand the new ordinance, and to soon bring forward a resolution that directs city staff to begin discussing ideas with business owners and other groups around town.

Turk said one of her campaign promises last year was to try and reduce not only the use of foam, but also single-use plastics. She said that promise still stands.

“This is just the first step,” she said. “There will be more coming. We’re not done.”