San Diego

Restaurant Owners, Groups Sue to Stop San Diego's Styrofoam Ban

In January, the City of San Diego adopted a ban on Styrofoam containers. The ban will be fully enforced beginning May 24, with fines starting at $200 for a first offense.

But not so fast.

Three San Diego restaurant owners, the California Restaurant Association, and Dart Cardboard Corporation of California have now filed a lawsuit 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.’

The lawsuit, filed March 12, alleges the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act when it failed to appropriately analyze the environmental impacts of its foam ban before implementing it. The City ignored evidence presented to the City Council that foam alternatives might be worse for the environment, according to the suit.

One of the restaurant owners behind the suit is Javier Rodriguez. He owns Antojitos Colombianos on Imperial Avenue in Logan Heights.

“I want the city to be fair,” said Rodriguez, who also must consider the expense of changing from Styrofoam to a different type of container.

“The lack of an environmental study in San Diego prior to the city considering a ban on polystyrene food packaging is alarming,” stated the California Restaurant Association in a press release. “The City ignored a critical step in evaluating the environmental impact that replacement products will have at local landfills, along beaches and to air and water quality. We have all the confidence in the legal process and that the court will validate our complaint.”

Rodriguez claims the chemicals used on replacement packaging are “pretty much the same chemicals they use on Styrofoam.”

“Both are recyclable, so I don’t know what the issue is here,” said Rodriguez.

The California Restaurant Association says ‘Expanded polystyrene is a safe, affordable recyclable product. Banning foam will result in increased costs to residents, restaurant owners and small businesses.’

Currently, 120 cities in California have adopted bans on Styrofoam. San Diego is the largest.

“The polystyrene ban ordinance is important for protecting our environment. Our office will vigorously defend this ordinance through the courts,” City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said.

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