by Richard Lieberman
Single use and Polystyrene food containers will no longer be allowed in restaurants in the city after the City Council voted to ban their use.
Commonly called Styrofoam and regularly used in the food service industry the containers are now prohibited in the city. The ruling designed to help reduce litter and potential harm to marine animals will be based on a similar ordinance already in place in Santa Barbara. The material Polystyrene found in single-use plates, cups and takeout food containers is neither biodegradable nor recyclable.
After heavy rains, polystyrene items are often seen in storm drains and on beaches, where tiny pieces often end up in the stomachs of seabirds and marine animals.
During a regular Monday evening council meeting a vote was taken on the ban and passed 6-0 (Sofia Rubalcava was absent). City staff will begin drafting an ordinance requiring all restaurants to use biodegradable or recyclable food packaging. City staff has also been asked to research how other cities have banned food retailers from selling coolers, plates and cups containing Polystyrene. Retail stores in the city may also face a similar prohibition.
“What’s extra special is current users even agree that it’s the right thing to do,” Mayor Matt LaVere said. “There’s community-wide support for this. We all walk on the beach and see it all the time.” LaVere told the council.
The city also announced it will use Santa Barbara’s ordinance as a road map to be planning and initiating its own ban. In Santa Barbara all food providers and retailers are required to use containers and packing material, including “peanuts” and shipping boxes that are compostable, recyclable, and biodegradable, according the ordinance.
Food providers in Santa Barbara may be exempt from the rule for up to one year if the food vendor applies for an exemption showing a potential financial hardship. Food currently prepared or packaged outside the city and brought into Santa Barbara including raw meat, fish and other raw food are also excluded from the ordinance.
At this time there are more than 130 cities that have implemented similar bans, including Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, and Hermosa Beach.
The council hopefully will design the ordinance so that it will avoid a problem that San Diego has had with its ordinance. San Diego previously voted to ban the use of Polystyrene but had to revoke the ordinance after a lawsuit was filed by the restaurant industry.
The council and city staff must take into account the failure of San Diego’s effort and make sure the local ordinance will stand up to a courtroom challenge.