San Diego Bans Use of Styrofoam Containers

Created: 16 October, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Alexandra Mendoza

Photo / Zachary Hada

Citing environmental concerns, San Diego has joined other California cities in banning the use of styrofoam and limiting the use of single-use plastic containers.

This week, City Council approved, by a 5-3 vote, a measure banning the use of styrofoam for things such as food containers, egg cartons, ice chests, and other food packaging.

The ordinance, which would go into effect next April, also restricts the use of single-use plastics, such as only giving restaurant customers plastic straws and utensils if they request them.

“By passing this measure, the Council has reaffirmed our role as a national leader in pursuit of a safe, sustainable future,” said Councilmember, and author of the measure, Chris Ward. “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 business that have been advocating for this change for years.”

Next, the Department of Environmental Services will have to submit a list of safe and affordable alternatives to styrofoam before the ban goes into effect.

Critics of the ban said they feared it would financially damage small local restaurants that may not be able to afford the more expensive non-polystyrene products. The concerns prompted the City to grant a grace period to businesses with an annual gross income of less than $500,000.

In addition, restaurants that can demonstrate a financial hardship due to the measure will be given a two-year grace period.

“Banning styrofoam is the right thing to do for the environment, but we also have to give our small business a chance to adapt to the change,” expressed Councilmember Georgette Gómez.

San Diego joins more than 100 other California cities, including San Jose and San Francisco, that have adopted similar measures in response to pressure from environmental organizations and community members who oppose styrofoam due to the pollution caused by this non-biodegradable material.

In San Diego county, Encinitas, Solana Beach, and Imperial Beach have also passed a similar ban, and the San Diego City Council had already passed a measure in 2016 restricting the use of plastic bags by local businesses.