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Victory! San Diego Passes Strong Plastics Reduction Ordinance

by Bill Hickman

Today the San Diego City Council voted to adopt a single-use plastics ordinance to help stop the flow of plastic to the ocean that will apply to all restaurants and retailers citywide! Aimed at banning expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) containers and reducing other plastic waste, this ordinance will start taking effect in 30 days.

The ordinance includes a ban of expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) containers at restaurants along with a requirement for restaurants to only offer straws upon request and utensils for takeout orders only upon request. The ordinance also includes a retail ban on coolers, beach toys, egg cartons, food service ware (plates, cups, etc), or food trays made, in whole or in part, from polystyrene foam that is not wholly encapsulated or encased within a non-polystyrene foam material. (Those flimsy white foam coolers that easily break into smaller pieces are out, but the durable Igloo-type coolers are still allowed.)

Surfrider San Diego’s volunteer-led policy team launched this effort from the ground up less than two years ago. They worked with a coalition of groups to raise public support, get endorsements from dozens of neighborhood councils, host community rallies, and rally at the various City Council meetings along the way.

The evidence is overwhelmingly clear: phasing out single use plastics improves our personal well-being, environment, wildlife, and economy. Like other single-use plastics, expanded polystyrene foam is a primary contributor to litter in San Diego because of its ability to fragment into smaller pieces. In San Diego County, volunteers removed 20,883 pieces of polystyrene from our beaches in 2017. Additionally, plastic straws are one of the most common items found during beach clean-ups and are detrimental to marine wildlife.

Big thanks to the coalition of groups that helped with this campaign!