2nd Phase of San Diego’s Styrofoam Ban Takes Effect

The city of San Diego's polystyrene foam and single-use plastics ordinance was passed in a 6-3 council vote

Even more restrictions were placed on the types of products San Diego restaurants can use as the city rolled out the second phase of their Styrofoam ban on Friday. 

Restaurants within the city are no longer allowed to hand out plastic foam egg carton and food containers under an ordinance passed on Jan. 8 that made San Diego the largest in California to ban Styrofoam products. 

The city of San Diego's polystyrene foam and single-use plastics ordinance was passed in a 6-3 council vote to move the city away from non-biodegradable products and towards a goal of zero waste by 2030. 

The first phase of the city's ban went into effect in February. At that time restaurants were prohibited from giving out plastic utensils and straws unless a customer requested them.

The second phase adds even more products to the list of prohibited items. The ban was rolled out in phases to allow small businesses time to obtain acceptable plastic foam and single-use plastic alternatives, the city said.

Acceptable alternatives include recyclable plastics, aluminum and recyclable paper products.

Fines for violating the law will be $200 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. 

Restaurant owners argued the alternative, environmentally-friendly containers would cost them nearly twice as much and would force them to pass the additional cost on to their customers.

"In the short run, consumers need to realize this is going to cost them more. Everyone is going to have to raise their prices," said Damien Devine, owner of Torpasta.

Businesses with an annual income of less than $500,000 are exempt from both phases until Feb. 23, 2020.

Restaurants can petition the department for a hardship waiver, which will be awarded on a case-by-case basis for restaurants that would have financial difficulty making the switch to alternative products. 

For Mandy Johnson, owner of Palmier Espresso, the alternative to plastic is three times more expensive she said.

"It’s going to be very hard for us to keep up," said Johnson.

Any restaurants that currently have a contract with styrofoam companies can petition the Environmental Services Department for a waiver so that agreements are not broken.

Three San Diego restaurant owners, the California Restaurant Association, and Dart Cardboard Corporation of California filed a lawsuit in March against the city of San Diego seeking to block the city’s ban on Styrofoam containers.

The suit claims the City Council adopted the ban with "zero environmental analysis" and violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

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