SOLANA BEACH — Known as a regional leader in environmental sustainability efforts, the city of Solana Beach took a big step on Aug. 28 to significantly reduce the amount of single-use plastics and polystyrene in the city.
Starting in November of 2020, restaurants, cafes, food trucks, grocers and any other establishments will likely be barred from selling or offering single-use straws, utensils, stirrers, splash sticks, cocktail sticks or toothpicks made of plastic.
Establishments would also be prohibited from selling or offering food service ware, such as to-go boxes, that aren’t recyclable or compostable. Any such ware can only be provided upon request by a customer.
The city already banned the use of polystyrene containers at local restaurants in 2015. But the new ordinance will expand such prohibitions, barring the sale of polystyrene products such as foam coolers that are not encased in a hard shell, or foam beach toys. These items will also be prohibited on the city’s beaches.
The city unanimously approved the new measures after a first reading. In order to go into effect, the council will have to undergo a second reading in late September. Local businesses will then have a year to accommodate the changes.
The expansive measures have been in the making for over a year, according to Peter Zahn, vice chair of the city’s climate action commission and former deputy mayor.
“It’s tough because we’re going to be asking people … to make some sacrifices,” he said. “But we’ve done this before.”
The city was the first in the county to enact a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2012, paving the way for similar bans throughout the county. The city of San Diego banned single-use plastic bags in 2016.
The ordinance will not only affect local businesses, but city-owned facilities as well. The ordinance included a measure prohibiting the sale and distribution of plastic bottles one liter in size or smaller on city property or at city events, as well as the use of packaged water.
The ordinance will help the city meet the goals of its Climate Action Plan, which aims to divert 90% of solid waste from landfills by 2035.
Prolifically produced and very difficult to break down, plastics that aren’t recycled tend to quickly become trash and remain in the environment indefinitely, ending up in landfills or worse, on local beaches.
City staff reported that community reception to the measure has been mostly positive. Dozens of residents sent in letters of support for the ordinance, and representatives from organizations like the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego 350 and the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation encouraged the changes and requested the city adopt the most comprehensive ordinance possible.
Jessica Toth, executive director of the Solana Center, lauded the ordinance for addressing the overuse of single-use plastics.
“This ordinance will have a positive impact both on the amount of plastics disposed in Solana Beach and more importantly on public awareness,” she said. “ … we don’t need more recycling, we need less disposal.”
James Wang, a member of Encinitas’s Environmental Commission, supported council action in the hopes that it will spur action in other cities.
“Your ocean is our ocean and your beach is our beach … you pass this ordinance, that gives our council a green light,” Wang said.
A representative with the California Restaurant Association voiced support for the ordinance, but requested there be a 12-month transition period. The association also requested that rather than allowing utensils to be given upon request by the customer, that they be given “upon offer” by the employees.
The council opted to allow “upon offer” for drive-in restaurants only — of which there is just one in the city.
The city also opted to send a letter of support for Senate Bill 5 and Assembly Bill 1080, together called the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act. The act sets goals to help vastly reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment, through source reduction and ensuring that single-use plastics are recyclable and compostable.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.