Street food vendors in Oxford may soon be forced to provide customers with only biodegradable or recyclable take-away food packaging and utensils under new license conditions proposed by the city council.
The changes are being put forward to tackle non-biodegradable litter and could see polystyrene containers and trays for take-away burgers and chips banned in Oxford city centre.
However, the ban which if approved could be a first in the UK would only affect food vendors operating from the street, such as burger vans or hot dog stands, and would not apply to permanent shops or restaurants.
Oxford city councils general licensing committee met this week (June 10) to discuss the amendments to conditions in its street trading policy.
A new draft street trading policy including the food packaging conditions is now set to go for a stakeholder consultation in the next two months, with a possible ban in place by autumn 2014.
According to the draft policy, street trading is allowed on all streets in Oxford as long as local authority permission has been obtained. 34 street trading units currently have council permission to operate in Oxford.
Street traders that serve hot food or drink at any time between the hours of 11pm and 5am also require a Premises License under the Licensing Act 2003.
‘Basically it is a sensible thing to do and we will be consulting from the next six to eight weeks. I suspect we have as much of a problem with litter as any other authority. It is about making the waste that we do have to get rid of more user-friendly and sustainable.’
Oxford city councillor Colin Cooke, general licensing committee member
The new draft street trading policy states that the conditions for annual and weekly traders have been combined and amended to reflect changes in legislation and best practice.
The draft document states: For food traders all packaging and utensils for use by customers shall be made of biodegradable or recyclable materials.
It adds: Failure to comply with one or more of the standard conditions of consent may lead to revocation or non-renewal of street trading consent.
Speaking to letsrecycle.com Oxford city licensing committee member, councillor Colin Cooke, said: Basically it is a sensible thing to do and we will be consulting from the next six to eight weeks. I suspect we have as much of a problem with litter as any other authority. It is about making the waste that we do have to get rid of more user-friendly and sustainable. We are trying to get people to think about these things.
One of the most interesting things I have learned about this is that for every piece of litter that falls on the ground, it costs the council 23 times more to pick that up and get rid of it than to simply collect containers or bins.
Asked whether the proposals had prompted opposition from street traders, he said: I havent heard anything but they will have an opportunity to respond. Some of these recyclable containers may be marginally more expensive than the alternatives. We would expect them to either absorb these costs or pass them on to their customers. We expect costs to come down the more such containers are used.
Commenting on Oxfords move change its street trading policy, Andrew Bird, chair of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), reiterated that every council has a legal duty to look at moving waste up the hierarchy both through street cleansing and through collected household waste.
He added: If the waste is within their control it is obviously easier to achieve. However any moves such as this need to be done in consultation, and will be far more effective if agreement can be reached with relevant stakeholders, which is clearly something Oxford is trying to do.