San Diego businesses may soon have to find a new way to serve take-out items as polystyrene ban looms

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Styrofoam products are not biodegradable and often litter our beaches and waterways; San Diego officials are therefore working to ban the product from companies.

SAN DIEGO — San Diegans could soon see new rules for single-use plastics, especially polystyrene products such as containers and take-out cups.

“San Diego is ready to say goodbye to styrofoam,” Councilman Joe LaCava said, moments before the San Diego City Council’s Environment Committee voted 4-0 in favor of styrofoam. ordinance, which will now be submitted to the full council for final approval.

“We’re rounding the corner on these products that are bad for the environment,” LaCava said. “I think everyone has seen these bits of polystyrene on our beaches in too many places.”

City Council originally passed this ordinance nearly four years ago and was suspended due to litigation by restaurants and foam container companies. But after completing an environmental impact report, the city is now poised to move forward in joining 130 other California cities with bans on polystyrene.

Polystyrene products are not biodegradable and often litter our beaches and waterways.

“Sixteen years of cleanups reveal that moss debris is the second most commonly found item. In 2018 and 2019, volunteers removed 58,000 pieces of moss debris from our beaches,” a Surfrider representative said in a comment. public at Thursday’s meeting.

“Polystyrene is particularly difficult to remove because it shatters into hundreds or even thousands of pieces.”

The ban would apply to polystyrene products such as take-out food containers, egg cartons, food trays and even polystyrene coolers, coolers and pool toys.

When it comes to single-use plastics like utensils or straws, the new rules state that restaurants should only distribute them upon request.

“We’re saying don’t automatically give this to the consumer, the takeout shopper, because too often we see people throwing it away and not even using it,” LaCava said.

Antojitos Columbianos is a Mexican restaurant in Sherman Heights that still uses polystyrene containers and cups.

When they eventually phase out Styrofoam, they say they’ll have to raise prices because of the added costs for other types of containers.

“We will adjust the menu in the future because we have to because there is no other way,” said Andres Rodriguez, manager of Antojitos Columbianos.

The restaurant is already developing creative ways to save customers from paying these extra expenses.

“We try to understand like a customer bringing their own containers, like glass containers,” Rodriguez said.

“That’s what we’re doing now. You pay fifty cents less for take-out orders when you bring your containers.”

After years of delay, city leaders are more than ready to move forward with the ordinance.

“It’s time to say enough is enough. We know this is a problem. We know we can identify the source of this problem,” LaCava said. “And it’s time to ban this product and start working on other things that also affect quality of life and the environment,”

The new rules will be considered at a meeting of the full city council on November 15, and if the ordinance passes, the rules will come into effect on April 1, 2023.

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Rozella J. Cook