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Santa Barbara will consider banning Styrofoam, plastic straws

As more cities discourage the use of plastic straws like these, businesses are developing alternative products. Biodegradable straws made out of hay are among the choices.
As more cities discourage the use of plastic straws like these, businesses are developing alternative products. Biodegradable straws made out of hay are among the choices. Bloomberg

A three-member subcommittee of the Santa Barbara City Council has voted to ban the sale and use of straws and expanded polystyrene products.

The city Ordinance Committee also voted to make plastic stirrers and cutlery "on-demand" only.

The full City Council must still vote on the matter, likely next week.

The committee, made up of City Council members Kristen Sneddon and Randy Rowse and Mayor Cathy Murillo, took two separate votes, one to ban the polystyrene products, which was unanimous, and the other to ban the straws and make the stirrers and cutlery, on demand.

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That vote was 2-1. Rowse said a straw, stirrers and cutlery rules shouldn't be "ordained."

Instead, he said, the city should launch an aggressive public littering camapaign.

"Ordinances should be simple and enforceable, otherwise they lose their juice," Rowse said.

Expanded polystyrene is made of non-renewable petroleum products. The foam is a lightweight, durable material that is not biodegradable, but does break up into small pieces, making it difficult and expensive to remove from the environment.

Pieces of expanded polystyrene can be harmful to fish and wildlife as they often are mistaken for food and ingested, according to the city.

The city's proposed ordinance calls for prohibiting the use of expanded polystyrene food and drink containers by food providers and the retail sale of EPS products.

The ordinance would allow for an economic hardship exemption for companies; smoothie maker Blenders in the Grass has already asked for an exception.

In California, 116 cities and counties have introduced regulations restricting the use of food and drink containers made from expanded polystyrene, according to a city staff report.

Sneddon said she was eager to adopt the ban on the foam products and straws.

"I would like to ban straws and stirrers," she said. "There are so many other options for straws available. We're behind. We're not being particularly avant garde. We're following a trend. I would like to be out in front of it."

Jessica Scheeter, executive director of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, said plastic has been accumulating in the ocean since the 1950s, and that "by 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than plankton."

"As a coastal community, this is the right thing to do," Scheeter said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.
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