Council bans non-compostable food containers, eyes options for small cell wireless facilities

    Adrienne Fraley-Monillas

    Continuing on the environmental path established nine years ago when the city banned single-use plastic bags, the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting the use of non-compostable food service containers.

    The action comes less than eight months after the council in May 2018 passed a resolution stating the city’s intent to phase in over 18 months a ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery.

    Tuesday night’s ordinance, introduced by Edmonds City Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, will take effect in 2020. As defined, the banned containers include “all plates, trays, cups, lids, bowls, cartons, portion cups, condiment packets, deli rounds, and hinged or lidded containers (clamshells) on or in which any raw, prepared or cooked foods or beverages are placed or packaged or intended to be placed or packaged and designed for one-time use.” 

    City of Edmonds Recycling Coordinator Steve Fisher told the council in a brief presentation prior to a public hearing on the matter that the ordinance does allow the city to make exceptions for certain containers. For example, prepackaged food items that have been filled and sealed prior to arriving at the food service business — ketchup and mustard packets, for example — are exempt. In addition, the mayor or a designee is authorized to provide renewable one-year waivers for certain food service containers. “Such waivers or relief shall be granted only for circumstances where commonly used composting technology cannot produce a suitable food service container such as containers for hot, greasy food (i.e., hot roasted chicken),” the ordinance states.

    The only person to testify during the public hearing was Heather Trimm of Zero Waste Washington, who thanked the council for its environmental leadership. She also noted that the ordinance will make it easy for food service establishments to compost their containers right along with food waste.

    Infographic courtesy City of Edmonds

    In addition Tuesday night, the council learned more about the city’s plans to incorporate requirements for small cell wireless standards into the city code.

    City Engineering Program Manager Jeanie McConnell and City Attorney Jeff Taraday went through a presentation of various options for council consideration, aimed at accommodating a Federal Communications Commission ruling in September 2018 that limits how state and local governments regulate small wireless facilities.

    The city’s existing wireless communications facilities code will need to be updated to specifically address small cell facilities as well as aesthetic regulations.The FCC’s order became effective Jan. 14, and local jurisdictions have until April 14 to have aesthetic rules in place. The order specifies that aesthetic requirements must be reasonable, objective and “no more burdensome than those applied to other types of infrastructure deployments.”

    As we reported in our earlier story, the small cells — which provide the new, faster 5G technology for wireless customers — can be placed on light poles, traffic signals, building roofs, road signs, billboards, and more. So instead of beaming connectivity from a few large cell towers, 5G will utilize lots of small transmitters.

    Small cells don’t require as much power as full-sized towers, and perform best when clustered together to create more of a mesh network than a point-to-point signal. This requires a lot of hardware and it all has to be attached somewhere.

    Taraday told the council that small cell antenna are going to be densely deployed throughout the city. Although it may take some time, eventually these facilities could be on every block. It’s inevitable that they will have an aesthetic impact, and that’s why the council’s guidance is needed to ensure a proper policy is developed, Taraday said.

    The presentation showed a range of alternatives for installing small cell facilities on public property as well as other property located inside and outside the public rights-of-way in Edmonds. Staff’s top preference, according to the list presented Tuesday night, would be for locations on private property, outside the city’s right-of-way. As an example, McConnell pointed to the building on 4th and Main, which currently has a standard cellular device attached.

    4th and Main building. (Courtesy City of Edmonds)

    Staff’s second preference would be to place such facilities on standalone poles outside the right of way. The small cell equipment could also be located on the rooftops of privately owned buildings, McConnell said.

    Example of standalone pole outside right of way.
    Example of rooftop installation

    Councilmembers seemed to agree with staff’s top preferences, and they made it clear it was important to ensure that none of the small cell units could be attached to the city’s existing historic Sternberg model light poles downtown. There is a custom-made design for  decorative street lighting that accommodates small cell equipment, but the council can decide whether to include those as an option when it approves city code changes to comply with the FCC ruling, Taraday said.

    The project timeline includes a possible public hearing Feb. 5 on an interim ordinance that would allow the city to process any applications for small cell facilities that come in,. That would be followed by refinements to the interim ordinance, and another possible public hearing in late March or early April to meet the April 14 FCC deadline to have aesthetic rules in place.

    Also on Tuesday, the council:

    -Heard a presentation from Sound Transit and the City of Edmonds Prosecutor’s Office.

    -Listened to a report from Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Cornell, an Edmonds resident who was elected in November to become the county’s top chief law enforcement officer.

    Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell presents to the Edmonds City Council.

    Cornell provided an overview of the work the prosecutor’s office does, and also outlined his top priorities, including a commitment to address the opioid crisis “with a focus on prevention and treatment.” He said he is committed to holding both drug dealers and the pharmaceutical industry accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis — and promised that the public would be hearing more about his plans related to the pharmaceutical industry in coming weeks.

    “We are keepers of the public trust not only as prosecuting attorneys but as public officials,” Cornell said. “And I intend to lead an office that understands that…and to make sure you have continued faith in the work that I do.”

    — By Teresa Wippel




    4 Replies to “Council bans non-compostable food containers, eyes options for small cell wireless facilities”

    1. George Orwell was ahead of the time, but constant surveillance is definitely on the way!

      but, no fears, it’s all in the name of profit for the largest of the large corporations, as if government officials will not have any access to it

      of course this “search” is legal as the founding fathers did not outlaw it a few hundred years earlier

      then, of course, we are constantly bombarded by electro-magnetic radiation naturally, but only time will tell if the additional saturation of this radiation will have any effect on the human body

      the difference being that the wavelength is small enough to fit within the human cell

      don’t worry, we have no choice


    2. Better yet let’s talk about how they are going to enforce this new law? Hire more people to do a “on site” check with all the restaurants in Edmonds..great tax payer dollars spent. If the restaurants want to do it fine..but another law?? Really? The last “biodegradable” plate I got degraded on my lap..along with my straw..Idaho looking better.


    3. Concerns for `new installations’ of 5G reception should be addressed. There has been no conclusive science studies by independent authorities that confirm that there is no negative environmental impact. 5G has no signature of smell, smoke, or steam, that would suggest perhaps there is pollution or contamination, but energy waves are transmitted and the industry that benefits the most from this `fast speed’ has not printed any scientific studies to prove there are not adverse affects. In fact the industries and the FCC would prefer to dismiss this concern with the same cavalier way that Rachel Carson’s observations (Silent Spring) were initially dismissed by the science community. Consider how many times, after the fact, confirmation comes that a product, or a process, is not without serious side affects. First `do no harm’ is important to a community’s well-being. Demand the science, not conjecture, to make sensible choices.


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