WHY BANNING SINGLE USE PLASTIC ITEMS MATTERS
Single-use bottles, to-go food containers and plastic bags are highly energy intensive products – a lot of fossil fuels are used to make and transport them to stores. Single use plastics have a very low recycling rate, and there is not a robust recycling market for the small percentage that makes it to a blue bin. Their lightweight composition allows them to escape easily from trash cans, meaning they end up in our oceans, streams, and rivers. They then photodegrade into tiny bits that never go away. Our oceans are filling up with these plastic bits, where they attract other chemicals and become toxic ‘pills’ that work their way up the food chain. The disposal side of plastics, like so many other fossil fuel products, is not taken into account when calculating their cost.
WHAT CEC IS DOING
- Single Use Plastic Bags
CEC championed single use bag reduction laws starting in 2008. Working with a local coalition, we achieved success in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and unincorporated Santa Barbara County. These laws eliminated more than 100 million bags in our region and helped push the state to take action.In 2016, CEC was part of a statewide coalition advocating for the passage of Prop 67. The effort was successful and California now has the nation’s first statewide bag reduction law. This law has been implemented seamlessly and has eliminated the distribution of 12 billion bags annually.
- Single Use Expanded Polystyrene (EPS or Styrofoam)
CEC is currently working with other groups to push for laws reducing the distribution of food service and retail EPS. This product, like plastic bags, is lightweight and escapes collection systems easily to end up as litter on our beaches and in our waterways.The first city in Santa Barbara County to pass an EPS reduction law was Carpinteria. They banned foods service EPS packaging in 2009. In late 2017, we worked with them to expand their law to include retail sales of EPS products like cups, plates and coolers. The Carpinteria City Council voted unanimously to expand their law in early 2018, joining Malibu and more than 20 other California cities to include retail sales. Nearly 120 California cities have an EPS food packaging reduction law.We successfully worked with the City of Santa Barbara on an EPS law that would include retail sales in 2017 and 2018, culminating in unanimous passage of this law in July 2018. It will go into effect on January 1, 2019. Businesses who can demonstrate a need for an extension can file for a one-year, non-renewable exemption.In partnership with Santa Barbara ChannelKeeper, we will continue advocating for this law throughout the region. There were more than 200 plastic bag reduction laws in place throughout California before the state took action.
- Straws and Other Food Service Single Use Plastic
During our EPS advocacy in Santa Barbara, we asked that “toss in the bag” items like straws, stirrers and plastic cutlery be available only upon request. Many people consume take-out food at home and don’t need to add to their drawer full of these items. In discussions with the Santa Barbara City Council Ordinance Committee, the proposal grew into ban on plastic straws and an on-request policy for the other items. The full City Council heard this proposal on July 17, 2018 and voted 6-1 to pass it into law. During the second reading on July 24, the item was pulled for some revisions and sent back to the Ordinance Committee. Potential revisions include clearer language about the difference between food service distribution and retail sales of straws (retail sales are not proposed to be affected by the law) and expanding the ban on plastic straws to include plastic stirrers. The Ordinance Committee is tentatively scheduled to review the law in September 2018. We will continue to support a provision that allows people with a medical need for plastic straws to continue to receive them at any city food provider as well as an exemption for medical facilities who need to provide plastic straws to patients. We realize that there is enforcement language in the standard Santa Barbara Municipal Code that includes penalties for violations. As with most other Santa Barbara ordinances, the most severe penalties will not ever be enforced.We will also continue to advocate for this type of law throughout the region. California has passed five laws restricting straws and another four laws implementing a “straws on request” policy. Many corporate providers (i.e. Starbucks, cruise lines and amusement parks) are also taking action to reduce or eliminate distribution of plastic straws.