San Diego launches analysis that could revive controversial styrofoam ban
A year after San Diego ended enforcement of the city’s controversial ban on styrofoam food containers and similar products, city officials launched a comprehensive scan that could revive the ban .
The California Restaurant Association, which aggressively opposed the ban as an unfair hardship on small restaurants that still use foam products, filed a lawsuit in the spring of 2019, saying San Diego did not have fully analyzed the impact of the ban.
City officials at first downplayed the importance of the trial. But at the end of 2019, they turned the tide and announced that San Diego would end the application, just before the ban took full effect, so that the analysis could be conducted.
Called the environmental impact report, it will analyze the impact of the new law on pollution, traffic and other elements of the environment. It is expected to be completed by this summer, so that enforcement of the ban could resume.
City officials have not provided any reason why they waited a full year to initiate the analysis.
Leaders of the local environmental community this week welcomed the city’s decision to move forward. They also repeated previous predictions that the analysis will determine that the ban has a positive impact on the environment, not a negative one.
Polystyrene is not biodegradable and has been blamed for poisoning fish and other marine life and harming the health of people who eat seafood. The material continually breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, causing it to break down. allows entry into local waterways and easily consumed by wildlife.
Lawsuit by the Restaurant Association, a statewide lobbying group, argues the ban would damage the environment by forcing restaurants to use heavier replacement packaging instead of foam containers .
âEvidence presented to the city when it passed the ordinance has consistently shown that a ban on expanded polystyrene, which is recyclable, will not reduce waste and waste and will result in the replacement of polystyrene foam by products that have much greater environmental impacts and will lead to an increase in litter and garbage, âsaid the lawsuit.
Alex Ferron, president of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation, said on Thursday that the litigation “was hanging in the straw.” She said the analysis will clearly show that the ban benefits the environment instead of damaging it.
The restaurant association declined to comment when the city shut down law enforcement, and officials did not return phone calls this week.
In addition to food containers used by restaurants, the ban applies to Styrofoam egg cartons, coolers, ice chests, pool toys, dock floats and mooring buoys. If the ban is reinstated, residents will not be able to use these products and retail stores will not be able to sell them.
San Diego law would also make it illegal to distribute plastic utensils or straws unless customers request it.
San Diego’s decision to withdraw from its ban and complete an environmental impact report could affect more than 120 other cities and counties in California that have passed bans on polystyrene products in recent years.
None of these cities have produced environmental impact reports. San Diego, the largest city in the state to pass a ban, was the first and only city to face a lawsuit for failing to file an environmental impact report.
âIt’s a double-edged sword,â Ferron said. âWe are delighted to see the city begin the EIR, which we have been waiting for a long time. But it’s frustrating to see that the opponents have managed to throw the box on the road.
If the ban goes into effect this summer, it will be more than three years after then-adviser Chris Ward first proposed it in March 2018.
Ward, now a member of the state assembly, said Thursday that the ban still had a significant impact despite the city’s decision to suspend the application.
This is because awareness and education about the new law has prompted many restaurants and other businesses to voluntarily give up foam. And some others walked away because they expected the law to come into effect, Ward said.
âThe good news is he always had the conversation there,â Ward said. “It just added a wrinkle.”
The city’s decision not to enforce the law was good news for many small restaurants and other businesses that use foam products, which are cheaper than paper and plastic alternatives.
Almost all national and regional restaurant chains have long since stopped using polystyrene in response to lobbying from environmental groups and negative reactions from customers concerned that the foam is not biodegradable.
But many taco stores, pizzerias, convenience stores, and other small businesses continue to use foam products to save money.
Ward said he was grateful to the local environmental community and the many local restaurants who have stopped using foam despite the lack of legislation banning it.
Ferron said she was glad the lawsuit against San Diego had not discouraged other cities from adopting styrofoam bans.
âI work a lot with small towns and even though it comes up in the discussion, it doesn’t affect them,â she said. “It actually makes them cross their T’s and the dots over there, I’m more careful.”
In San Diego County, other polystyrene-prohibited cities are Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, and Imperial Beach.
San Diego held a âscopingâ meeting on December 16 to determine what to study in the EIR. Public comments are expected by Monday.
David Garrick is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune