Del Mar Sustainability Board discusses pursuing polystyrene ban

Now that Del Mar has banned single-use plastic bags, the city’s Sustainability Advisory Board is looking at possibly pursuing a ban on polystyrene food containers.

Chairwoman Ann Feeney proposed a ban on polystyrene, particularly the expanded form of the plastic commonly known as Styrofoam, during the Aug. 18 board meeting.

“Solana Beach already has it; Encinitas is in the midst of doing it,” Feeney said.

A survey conducted by one of the board members about a year ago found that only three restaurants in Del Mar currently use Styrofoam containers.

Since there are only a few restaurants that use Styrofoam, Kristen Crane, the city’s management services director, suggested simply asking the businesses to stop using the containers. She noted that at this time, the city’s one-cent sales tax increase will be on the ballot, a measure most, if not all, local businesses have opposed.

“Rather than going for more of the heavy-handed down approach, see if they might be inspired to try it on their own,” she said. “For us to come from an ordinance perspective would feel more negative versus the other way, especially if we only have three businesses that are in that boat.”

Vice Chairwoman Helen Eckmann, however, pointed out that an ordinance is needed to prevent restaurants from using Styrofoam — even those who might agree to voluntarily comply.

“On the other hand, if we don’t have an ordinance, then they can start using them at any time,” she said. “I’m not saying we have to do it now, but I do think having a ban is a good idea.”

“I think it should be a ban,” board member Nitza Leichtling agreed. “And I don’t think restaurants are the only ones that are potential users of polystyrene.”

After a 20-minute discussion, the board decided to first approach the local businesses before pursuing a ban.

A representative from the board will soon outreach to the restaurants. The board plans to continue its discussion during next month’s meeting, but possibly wait until after the election to pursue such a ban.

“I do like the positive approach, but I do think we need to come up with an ordinance,” Eckmann said. “I think it will pass really quick if we can say everybody is already in compliance.”

Solana Beach became the first city in the county to ban polystyrene last year. In addition to food containers, the ban also prohibits the use of polystyrene packing materials such as “peanuts” and “popcorn” by businesses in Solana Beach. The Encinitas City Council tabled its discussion on a proposed polystyrene ban last fall.

Environmentalists advocate against the plastic containers because they do not biodegrade. Products instead break up into smaller pieces that, in coastal cities such as Del Mar and Solana Beach, often pollute the beaches and end up in the ocean, where they can be swallowed by marine animals.