In the same state that’s trying to ban giving out plastic straws in restaurants if the server is unprompted, one of California’s biggest cities now wants to ban take-out containers to help save the environment.
“A plan to end the use of Styrofoam and single-use plastic containers in San Diego was announced Thursday by city councilmembers and environmental leaders,” KNSD-TV reports.
“The measure proposed by councilmembers Chris Ward and Barbara Bry would restrict the amount of expanded polystyrene (EPS) products restaurants can purchase and sell.
“Egg cartons, coolers and take-out containers are some of the many ways EPS is used in the city of San Diego. The group said EPS, or Styrofoam, is a petroleum-based, non-degradable product that is difficult to recycle.”
Needless to say, environmentalists are thrilled with the move.
“Polystyrene food take-out containers are not recyclable and pervasive within our community,” Michael Torti of the Surfrider Foundation told the station.
KNSD reports that the Surfrider Foundation, which helps clean America’s beaches, removed “12,500 pieces of single-use plastic waste” from San Diego beaches.
“Pervasive within our community” sounds a bit strong. I visited San Diego recently and don’t remember the beaches overflowing with Styrofoam egg cartons or empty shawarma containers blowing across the street like tumbleweeds. While that 12,500 number sounds large, consider the fact that it also gives no concept of how large an area this waste was collected in, how often collections happened and what counts as a piece of “single-use plastic waste.”
Nevertheless, even though the threat caused by the insidious, evil tendrils of Styrofoam seems a bit overblown compared to the benefits of a relatively cheap, insulating material that makes life a bit easier, the initiative’s sponsors determined to go forward with the plan.
“It’s time San Diego joins over a hundred cities throughout California that have already banned these harmful environmental pollutants and moves forward toward a more sustainable future,” City Councilwoman Bry told KSWB-TV.
California’s “sustainable future” apparently involves a lot less talk about making housing affordable, getting rid of a massive state debt and stopping the state’s huge homeless problem and more about banning plastic and Styrofoam. And most of this sustainability, it seems, is based on the idea that we’re in a crisis that doesn’t actually exist.
For instance, take the straw ban, which would have fined servers at restaurants up to $1,000 if they gave a plastic straw without being prompted. The Los Angeles Times editorial board almost immediately came out in favor of the plan.
“Every day Americans use — and almost immediately discard — up to half a billion plastic beverage straws,” the Times wrote. In the next sentence, however, the editorial noted that “(i)t’s not clear where that number came from.”
If the editors had done a little research, they’d have found out that much-bandied about number came from a phone survey done by a young environmentalist. How young? Nine.
There are several signs that San Diego’s Styrofoam ban is based on similarly shaky logic. The California Restaurant Association San Diego Chapter noted that the real crisis is in mixed paper — which now can’t necessarily be recycled quite as easily since China, by far the largest market for recycled materials, has banned the importation of it.
Styrofoam, while more difficult to recycle, is not covered under the China ban and can still be shipped there.
The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce also said that the ban wouldn’t actually do anything aside from raise costs on consumers.
“A proposed ban only harms the small business owner and will not reduce waste,” a statement from the group read. “We need sensible solutions that modernize and stimulate investment of our domestic recycling infrastructure… A ban would only create more mixed paper and would do nothing to help the environment, reduce landfill waste, or actually create solutions for a more stable and thriving recycling industry.”
Because clearly what we need is a California that’s more hostile to small businesses — which means less jobs, higher prices, fewer people who can afford them and no less waste. Perhaps San Diego — and the rest of California — ought to focus on eliminating homeless camps as opposed to eliminating Styrofoam.
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