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City considers plastic straw regulations

ENCINITAS — Could Encinitas become the first city in the county to require restaurants to only give out plastic straws on demand?

One environmental commissioner thinks it would be a wise move for the city in its ongoing effort to protect coastal wildlife, which has led them to ban plastic bags and expanded polystyrene food service ware. 

The Environmental Commission was scheduled to consider Jim Wang’s request at its Dec. 14 meeting, but the outcome of their decision was not available at presstime. 

Wang, who was instrumental in the passage of the aforementioned ordinances, said in his report to the commission that plastic straws are a nuisance that foul the environment, especially coastal and marine life. 

He cited a National Park Service study that estimates Americans use 500 million plastic straws each day and a 2015 beach cleanup in San Diego that yielded 15,000 plastic straws.

“Plastic straws are not natural and adversely impact all life. Sea life may be the most profoundly affected since straws float and are mobile in water: they can snarl marine animals, mimic food,

and may be unwittingly consumed by sea life,” Wang wrote in the staff report.

Encinitas is one of a number of cities and jurisdictions statewide considering restricting or outright banning plastic straws. San Luis Obispo in October approved a similar ordinance, and the city of Berkeley is considering an outright ban. 

Activist groups such as The Last Plastic Straw and have worked on a statewide ban on plastic straws, which they said could be replaced with biodegradable or reusable straws. 

Restaurant trade groups have argued against bans, which they said would add to the bottom line of restaurant owners statewide. Environmentally friendly straw options are at least eight times more expensive than plastic ones, per reports.

Wang said that he isn’t looking for a ban, but rather a policy similar to the one adopted in Davis, California, that limits straws to by request. 

“Currently, many restaurants routinely include a straw with every drink, whether or not the

customer wants one,” Wang wrote in the staff report. “In contrast, the proposed straw-on-request policy gives consumers a choice: they may choose to request a straw, but if they do not, they are not automatically given one. It is not a ban on straws: customers still can get free straws on request.”

Wang lists four benefits to the policy: An immediate reduction in straws destined for landfill, a reduction in cost for vendors since fewer straws will be distributed, reduced litter and a heightened awareness of environmental impacts by customers. 

The Environmental Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at City Hall, 505 S. Vulcan Avenue. 

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1 comment

Tom Neary December 15, 2017 at 1:40 pm

I support Mr. Wang’s proposal.

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