Styrofoam containers could become a thing of the past and possibly be banned in San Diego. Photo via Pexels.

You might need to bring your own container or brown bag for your next take-out order from your local eatery.

The city of San Diego is one step closer to implementing a ban on the use of polystyrene foam products and single-use plastics following the completion of an environmental impact report. Officially referred to as the Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance, it is designed to reduce the number of plastics entering San Diego’s environment and waterways.

In line with the city’s Climate Action Plan, the ordinance will prohibit the sale and distribution of food service ware and food trays made in whole or in part from polystyrene foam. This includes bowls, plates, trays, cups, lids and other similar items designed for one-time use for prepared foods, including containers for dine-in, takeout food and leftovers. In addition to food containers, the ordinance will include egg cartons, coolers, pool toys and other polystyrene foam items that are difficult to recycle.

The ordinance would also require customers to request single use plastics, such as utensils or straws, instead of receiving them with every food order, thereby reducing unnecessary distribution. 

The city’s efforts complement recent state legislation to promote the recyclability of single use products and reduce distribution of utensils and condiment packets that are quickly discarded and sent to landfills. 

“Polystyrene foam is a common source of litter that has lasting negative impacts in our communities, beaches and beyond,” said Environmental Services Director Renee Robertson. “It does not biodegrade, but instead breaks down and blows in the wind and floats on water, where it can be ingested by birds, fish and other animals.”

The city’s Environmental Services Department will bring the ordinance back to City Council for approval this fall. If approved, San Diego will join 127 California cities that have passed a similar ordinance to reduce pollution.  

The environmental impact report is available on the city’s website and for more information on the Polystyrene Foam and Single Use Plastics Ordinance, visit the Environmental Services Department page.



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Ellen Bullock