Solana Beach may be first in county to ban polystyrene food containers


Having been the first city in San Diego County to ban single-use plastic bags, Solana Beach could now become the first city in the county to ban polystyrene food containers.

The Solana Beach City Council on Sept. 9 directed staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit the plastic.

“We will be the first one in the County of San Diego to be embarking on this,” said City Attorney Johanna Canlas. “We can’t look to our neighbors, at least in the immediate county. But this is not new. Other cities in the state have done this.”

Dozens of cities across California already ban or regulate polystyrene, particularly the expanded form of the plastic commonly known as Styrofoam. Although no city in the county has such regulations, the Encinitas City Council agreed last year to consider similar restrictions and its proposed ordinance is expected in October.

Solana Beach Councilman Peter Zahn, who proposed the idea to the council, said the plastic is particularly harmful to the environment because it’s often made into single-use products and does not biodegrade.

Common uses for polystyrene include protective packaging, such as packing peanuts and CD and DVD cases, food containers, lids, bottles, trays, tumblers and disposable cutlery.

“It may have a useful life in your life for about 15 minutes, but it doesn’t degrade for hundreds of years,” Zahn said.

He suggested Solana Beach model its ordinance after one adopted by another city in Southern California. In 2007, Santa Monica banned businesses from dispensing prepared foods in expanded polystyrene or any non-recyclable plastic. Santa Monica also prohibits the plastics at all city facilities, city-sponsored events and city-permitted events.

Suggesting recycling as a solution, Councilwoman Ginger Marshall cast the sole vote against the resolution.

City Manager Greg Wade said residential recycler Waste Management does not have a polystyrene recycling program. Although commercial recycler EDCO has a program, it is limited, he added.

“We don’t want to just recycle,” Zahn said. “We want to get it out of the waste stream.”

He said he toured EDCO’s Escondido-based recycling facility and found that the company was not recycling such materials. Marshall, however, said she contacted EDCO and learned that the company recycles polystyrene food containers, but they must be cleaned before recycling.

“My point would be public education, public awareness, and maybe switch our residential trash service over to a company that does recycle polystyrene,” Marshall said. “It could be an alternative to banning it and causing businesses to have to buy more expensive food takeout containers.”

Two plastics industry representatives, the American Chemistry Council and the California Restaurant Association, also submitted letters to Solana Beach in opposition to the proposed ban.