12 • 06 • 2022

San Diego Plastics Ordinance (redux)

On December 6, 2022, the San Diego City Council approved a polystyrene ban to reduce the flow of plastic to the ocean that will apply to all restaurants and retailers citywide. Originally approved in January 2019, a plastic-industry funded lawsuit against the City of San Diego stalled implementation for over 3 years.

The ordinance includes a ban of expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) containers at restaurants along with a requirement for restaurants to only offer straws upon request and utensils for takeout orders only upon request (since codified into CA state law). The ordinance also includes a retail ban on coolers, beach toys, egg cartons, food service ware (plates, cups, etc), or food trays made, in whole or in part, from polystyrene foam that is not wholly encapsulated or encased within a non-polystyrene foam material (those flimsy white foam coolers that easily break into smaller pieces are out, but the durable Igloo-type coolers are still allowed.)

Surfrider San Diego’s volunteer-led policy team launched this effort from the ground up. They worked with a coalition of groups to raise public support, get endorsements from dozens of neighborhood councils, host community rallies, and rally at the various City Council meetings along the way. Despite the plastic-industry lawsuit stalling implementation for over 3 years, San Diego activists kept the pressure on and rallied to get this ordinance re-introduced once the legal dispute ended. 

Plastic Pollution