San Diego Approves Styrofoam Ban

Created: 16 January, 2019
Last update: 20 April, 2022

By Ana Gomez Salcido

Photo / Zachary Hada

The San Diego City Council voted 6-3 to approve an ordinance to ban styrofoam (also known as expanded polystyrene foam or EPS) and place restrictions on single-use plastics in San Diego.

The measure will ban polystyrene foam products for the use of food service ware, food trays, egg cartons, and coolers in the City of San Diego. Under this ordinance, prepared food, such as that distributed through take-out menu items, may not be distributed, or available for purchase, in or on products that contain polystyrene foam. The measure would also make single-use plastics, such as straws and utensils, only available to restaurant customers by request.

“By passing this measure, the Council supermajority has assured San Diego’s role as a national leader in pursuit of a safe, sustainable future and has made San Diego the largest city in California to ban Styrofoam,” said San Diego Councilmember Chris Ward, who issued the ordinance to ban styrofoam. “The negative impacts of styrofoam are permanent and threaten the health of San Diegans, wildlife, and industries critical to our region. The time has come for us to listen to community groups, non-profits, and businesses that have been advocating for this change for years and move away from styrofoam and plastics in San Diego.”

San Diego joined 119 other California cities by banning polystyrene food and beverage containers, which have been blamed for poisoning fish and other marine life and damaging the health of people who eat seafood.
The initiative received support by environmental groups like San Diego Coastkeeper and the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

San Diego Coastkeeper says that plastics are particularly damaging to the marine environment, as they do not biodegrade, and are easily mistaken as food and ingested by wildlife. Many of the plastics collected in their series of public beach cleanups, were pieces less than one inch in diameter, and much of it was expanded polystyrene foam. With Styrofoam bans in Encinitas, Solana Beach, and most recently the City of San Diego, this environmental group is hopeful that the number of plastic debris found in local beaches will decrease in 2019.

The ban will take effect in 30 days after the City Council approval. Restaurants with a gross annual income of fewer than $500,000 can also apply for a waiver of no more than two years.