Solana Beach on the verge of banning single-use plastics

Solana Beach City Hall
(Sebastian Montes)

The Solana Beach City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a new law that would expand its prohibitions on single-use plastics that aren’t recyclable or compostable.

“As a coastal community with many visitors, we are in a unique position to send a message,” Mary Yang, a member of the city’s Coastal Climate Commission, said during public comment at the council’s Aug. 28 meeting.

The law is pending a second reading at the next council meeting, Sept. 25, and would take effect next year. The proposed measures include banning single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cocktail sticks or plastic toothpicks. There would also be a ban on polystyrene products, such as foam coolers, egg cartons, meat trays and fish trays. The restrictions would apply to vendors at city-sponsored events, who would also be prohibited from distributing plastic-bottled beverages.

“The crisis of plastic pollution is an issue that needs to be addressed by our policy makers,” Alexandra Ferron, volunteer policy coordinator with the Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego County chapter, said in a statement following the vote. “Solana Beach has an incredible record in addressing this crisis and paving the way for the rest of San Diego County to follow. We are thrilled that the City Council decided to carry on that legacy last night.”

A report to council members by City Manager Gregory Wade cited a 2017 Science Advances study that said 9% of discarded plastic has been recycled since the 1950s. Peter Zahn, a former councilman and current member of the Climate Action Commission, said “we’ve gotten pushback, but ultimately there is acceptance.”

Opponents of the proposed regulations include the American Beverage Association. In a letter to Mayor David Zito by Fredericka McGee, vice president of the organization’s California government affairs and operations, said a ban “would have negative side effects and would do little to reduce plastic waste.”

“There is no need for any beverage container to wind up in places where they should not be -- as litter or in landfills,” McGee wrote in the letter “Comprehensive recycling systems like those of our California reclaimers, and plastic reduction efforts by beverage companies, can help ensure this does not happen.”

But a long procession of Solana Beach residents, teachers and students said they want the city to continue building on its environmentally-friendly legislation already in place, including restrictions on plastic bags and certain polystyrene products.

“We may not live to see the long-term benefits,” Solana Beach school board member Debra Schade said. “But our kids will.”

Council members also indicated their support for two companion bills pending in the Legislature, SB 54 and AB 1080, that would phase out single-use plastics statewide.