CARLSBAD — Single-use plastic straws and polystyrene containers appear to be on the chopping block.
The City Council agreed to place the matter on the city’s legislative platform as residents and environmentalists lobbied the council to take action. Numerous cities in San Diego County have enacted polystyrene, known as Styrofoam, bans.
As for single-use plastic straws, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law in September 2018, which began Jan. 1, banning them in full-service restaurants, unless requested.
Several cities in California have passed ordinances on straws with Del Mar and Encinitas considering legislation.
Bob Nichols, president and chairman of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project in Encinitas, told the Carlsbad City Council it is imperative to ban both straws and polystyrene.
His organization partnered with the city of Encinitas to ban polystyrene and offered a subsidy to those restaurants in need of more help during the transition. He said of the 87 restaurants in the city affected, just three used the $7,500 subsidy.
It’s a tactic Nichols said he is willing to execute in Carlsbad, should the city enact any bans. He said the businesses in Encinitas did not push back as much as in other cities where bans are being considered.
“Our experience has been a successful one here in Encinitas,” Nichols said. “We partnered with the city of Encinitas on a ‘Plastic to Paper’ campaign. Most of the restaurants were grateful that we were asking to move from plastic to paper.”
Nichols said banning plastic straws will also help with reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as GHGs are released as plastic breaks down. Another problem, he said, is plastic takes hundreds of years to fully decompose, with the result being microplastics, which also get into the food and water supply.
However, yet another challenge for straws has been the fast-food industry, which is exempt under the current law, Nichols said. Nevertheless, other restaurants wouldn’t be hit hard financially as the cost of reusable alternatives from customers or paper straws is dropping.
“A lot of these restaurants saw an uptick in sales,” he added. “There wasn’t a lot of pushback on moving from plastic to paper. So, we just wanted to share that with (Carlsbad) City Council.”
Janis Jones, a North County resident who also spoke to the council, said she is a regular on north Ponto beach to cleaning the shoreline from plastic pollution, trash and debris for nearly six years. She said she is an advocate as 8 million tons of trash enter the world’s oceans each year.
By 2050, she said, there will be more trash than fish by weight in the oceans. The World Economic Forum reported the staggering figures in a 2016 report.
“The statistics are alarming, but I become more alarmed when I clean the beach and see the impacts first hand,” Jones added. “I’ve been saddened by all the Styrofoam bits and plastic straws that have washed up after the recent storms.”
As for banning straws, a massive movement exploded last year, dubbed “stop sucking,” spearheaded by Lonely Whale, an environmental group.
California was the first state to enact a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in 2014. In addition, legislators introduced Assembly Bill 1080 on Feb. 21 would require all “single-use packaging and products distributed or sold in California are recyclable or compostable on and after 2030.”