ENCINITAS — A proposed ban on expanded polystyrene food service and packaging products at Encinitas restaurants will return to the council dais Nov. 9.
Encinitas officials have discussed a potential ban on the use of the products for more than two years. Proponents have argued that the ubiquitous packaging product is a nuisance that winds up polluting local beaches and waterways.
Opponents, including several restaurants and a local arm of the California Restaurant Association, have contended a ban would drive mom-and-pop restaurants out of Encinitas.
The council was prepared to consider the ordinance in October 2015, but tabled it indefinitely after several restaurant owners complained they didn’t know about the ordinance and that alternative food service ware would be too expensive.
Encinitas officials said they would delay the ordinance to educate restaurant owners who still used Styrofoam products — 86, according to a previous city count — about the proposed ordinance and alternatives.
As part of the education effort, the city teamed up with the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, which has reached out to each of the restaurants and held several exhibits at local events to educate residents about the upcoming ordinance.
Jessica Toth, executive director of the Solana Center, said only a handful of the restaurant owners during the five-week education campaign said the ban would cause a financial hardship, while other restaurants are part of larger corporate chains that will have to make the decisions at a corporate level.
“Quite a few, though, are saying that they will switch when they have to switch,” Toth said. “I don’t think we will have the outcry that we had before.”
“Before” was September 2015, when a number of restaurant owners filled a workshop on the issue and urged the city to delay the ordinance.
Restaurant representatives at the meeting said that in addition to being more expensive, the alternative products don’t work as well as polystyrene in insulating hot or cold foods. At least one restaurant chain in Encinitas, Surf Brothers Teriyaki, switched from alternative products back to polystyrene after numerous customer complaints.
The California Restaurant Association’s San Diego Chapter urged the council to adopt a to adopt an incentive-based programs that encourage restaurants to recycle or replace polystyrene.
Chris Duggan, the governmental affairs director for the San Diego chapter of the California Restaurant Association, reaffirmed the organization’s opposition Tuesday afternoon.
“Over 30 Encinitas restaurant owners overwhelmingly opposed the City Council proposal that would have restricted their choice of take-out food and drink containers. We have not changed our position,” Duggan said. “A ban will harm mom and pop restaurant owners and will do nothing to reduce landfill waste. Instead, we continue to encourage the City to seek ways to expand and improve recycling that will make a real difference for our communities.”
Toth said that the education campaign has centered on giving restaurant owners information about alternatives to polystyrene and the respective prices.
While Toth said she hopes the City Council will pass the ordinance, she said that she hopes the campaign will raise awareness of how harmful polystyrene can be to the environment. She cited a statistic from a study by the World Economic Forum earlier this year that estimates polystyrene and other plastic will outnumber the pounds of fish in the ocean by 2050.
“That is just frightening,” she said. “I think locally, though, that the ban is part of the vibe of this environmentally progressive community and I think that it is the direction that most people want to go.”