The last straw?
As California becomes the first state in the nation to regulate the use of plastic straws in full-service restaurants, Encinitas must decide whether it wants to extend similar restrictions to fast-food and other takeout establishments.
Scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, Assembly Bill 1884 will require sit-down restaurants statewide to refrain from providing plastic straws unless customers specifically request them. But the law exempts fast-food restaurants.
James Wang, chairman of the Encinitas Environmental Commission, said, “AB 1884 only applies to dine-in restaurants, but most straws that go into the ocean come from fast-food and takeout places. As a beach community, we need to be conscious of how plastic straws get to the beach to begin with.”
Wang is working with fellow commissioners and Erik Steenblock, the city’s environmental programs manager, to revamp the commission’s proposed straws ordinance. To avoid redundancy with state law, Wang explained that the commission intends to develop a by-request-only policy specific to fast food and takeout.
What is unclear at this point is whether that ordinance will only regulate plastic straws — or expand to restrictions on single-use plastics in general. “It’s hard to know whether to go for little bits or the whole nine yards,” Wang said. Either way, the ordinance will require the majority vote of City Council to become local law.
In a signing message for AB 1884, Gov. Jerry Brown wrote, “Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences.” He referred to the plastics found in tap water and dead animals. “It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it. And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative.”
Environmentalists predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish.
“It is difficult to continue to deny that we’ve got a problem on our hands,” Encinitas Environmental Commissioner Amy Flicker wrote to The Coast News. She also thinks the city should extend the straws-on-request policy to takeout.
Flicker shared that “if each of us would do even a little something every day to help the environment, collectively, we can help move the needle in a positive direction.”
And the award goes to …
On Oct. 7, the Encinitas Environmental Award Program recognized two local organizations for displaying “exemplary leadership in preserving and enhancing the environment in Encinitas.” The recipients were the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy in the nonprofit/individual category and Patagonia in the for-profit business category.
In a press release, the Environmental Commission, which sponsors the award program, lauded the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy for preserving the lagoon “that is so important to migrating wildlife, all while providing education and enjoyment for generations of residents.”
It praised Patagonia in Cardiff for donating some of its profits to charitable causes, including local environmental organizations, and for promoting “sustainability and awareness through environmental advocacy.”
At the Surfing Madonna Beach Run, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear presented the fourth-annual awards to Doug Gibson, the conservancy’s executive director and chief scientist, and to Bryan Callaway, Patagonia Cardiff’s retail floor lead and an outdoor enthusiast.
Speaking up for the environment
An environmental event series featuring speakers and field trips could be on the horizon for Encinitas.
In his Oct. 11 report to the Environmental Commission, Wang said his idea was consistent with city policies that seek to promote environmental outreach and education in the community.
The series would benefit Encinitas, Wang wrote, noting, “A smarter and more knowledgeable community will help to keep the city cleaner and greener, increasing civic pride.”
A subcommittee will further refine the environmentally oriented event series before it is potentially presented to City Council.
Flicker stated, “One of the most interesting parts of our Environmental Commission monthly meetings are our guest speakers.
“Actually offering a separate formal ‘speaker series’ … would be such a valuable resource for our community. Being informed is a key way each of us can be proactive, and our environment needs all of us, helping in any way that we can.”