Jumpabola Pragmatic

Oceanside comes down hard on plastic

53 percent of the collected beach litter on the San Diego coast is plastics. - Image by Janis Jones/Surfrider53 percent of the collected beach litter on the San Diego coast is plastics.

It’s a day many have worked and waited for: when Oceanside restaurants get stingy about straws and other single-use plastics.

On August 4, a once reluctant city council finally agreed to require the businesses to provide such disposable meal accessories upon request only.

Janis Jones, a local teacher and activist, said her group began advocating for a single-use plastic ordinance four years ago. “Since then, the problem has only gotten worse.”

The city began with loftier goals. As part of the Zero Waste Plan, staff spent two years drafting an ordinance that would bar restaurants from using polystyrene foam by June 2022, replacing it with recyclable or compostable “to-go ware,” and require them to provide plastic items like straws upon request only by July 2023.

In March, the city council rejected it.

Then, as the residents, school groups, and environmentalists who supported a ban saw it, they took a big step backwards: turning the ordinance into a resolution that simply “encouraged” businesses to reduce plastic waste. Since styrofoam foodware is cheaper than recyclable or compostable options, this wasn’t likely to help the big litter picture.

According to the Surfrider Foundation’s 2020 report, almost 90 percent of the trash plucked off beaches nationwide was plastic. Straws were among the top ten most plentiful items. While California banned the automatic provision of plastic straws at dine-in restaurants starting in 2019, fast food was exempt.

Advocates began lobbying the city to at least pass a “skip the stuff” ordinance to tackle the steady stream of hard-to-recycle condiments, cup sleeves, straws, packets and trays.

Several local cities already have “upon request” ordinances: Vista, Encinitas, Solana Beach and San Diego – while polystyrene foam is banned in Vista, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Imperial Beach, and San Diego (pending environmental review).

All those little plastics break into ever smaller pieces that disperse to air, water, and land, and are routinely gobbled up by marine life. In California, single-use disposable materials for food and drinks make up about 25 percent of the waste produced, according to the city’s report.

Reversing course last week in response to local pressure, Oceanside passed a resolution supporting the reduction of marine debris and litter from single-use polystyrene and plastic items, and – as activists sought – announced plans to come back with a new Slot Gacor skip-the-stuff ordinance within six months.

The motion by deputy mayor Ryan Keim was unanimously approved.

The “Marine Debris Reduction Resolution” targets materials that often end up as litter. Polystyrene (styrofoam) and plastic straws aren’t accepted in the city’s recycling program, said Oceanside environmental officer, Colleen Foster.

A study from San Diego Coastkeeper found that 53 percent of the collected beach litter samples on the San Diego coast was plastics, much of it polystyrene.

Businesses will be urged to phase out these hard-to-recycle plastics through a voluntary compliance program. And by only providing items like straws if a customer asks for them, they save money.

The estimated cost of the program to the city is $10,000, which Foster said is for education, outreach and to develop a cooperative purchasing program to work with businesses to mitigate the use of polystyrene.

It’s a small cost to a community with an ocean economy. Business owner Marissa Figuero says she’s tired of seeing plastic strewn throughout the city, working its way to the ocean, or as an “oil spill we bury on dry land.”