The City of San Diego is putting the brakes on enforcing a new set of laws on single-use plastics, after being sued by the California Restaurant Association. Under the new laws, most restaurants will no longer be allowed to hand out plastic straws to customers, unless requested. In addition, all people and businesses within San Diego city limits will be prohibited from handing out polystyrene (Styrofoam) foodware items in buildings or at special events run by the City. This list of items includes takeout containers, foam egg cartons, and foam plates. The ban on polystyrene foodware was set to take effect on May 24th, and the restriction on straws was to begin on February 23rd.
Despite these laws being put on hold, businesses in San Diego are moving forward with their switch from single-use plastics straws to biodegradable alternatives, such as paper straws. Some of these local business owners are already acquainted with plastic straw bans. Woodstock’s Pizza owners Laura Ambrose and her husband are have complied with local bans on plastic straws in other California cities, where they operate a number of restaurants. With more cities California banning or restricting single-use plastic straws, the demand for biodegradable paper straws has shot up dramatically. As a result, paper straw companies are struggling to keep up production, and deliver orders to their customers on time.
The City of San Diego states on its website that these new restrictions on single-use plastic straws and polystyrene foodware are part of its Zero Waste goals. Volunteers in 2017 picked up more than 20,000 pieces of plastic from San Diego’s beaches, according to the non-profit Surfrider Foundation. The Surfrider Foundation states that single-use plastic straws are one of the most frequently picked up items during beach cleanups. Because they are small and flimsy, most plastic straws are difficult if not impossible to recycle. These plastic straws can enter the ocean, where they pose a serious threat to marine animals. Turtles, birds and fish often ingest plastic straws by mistake, causing injury or death.
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Although San Diego’s new single-use plastic straw ordinance has been put on hold, businesses in the city are nevertheless taking the steps to phase out this non-biodegradable item from their premises. With another major city in the US getting rid of single-use plastic straws and foodware, companies selling paper straws and eco-friendly takeout containers will be facing a bigger demand than ever before. As a renowned destination city for visitors from across the world, San Diego has the potential of making an impact far greater than the boundaries of its city limits.