Beyond Plastic

San Diego is the latest city to ban single-use plastics

City to ditch polystyrene foam food containers, utensils, coolers and pool toys

Beyond plastic

San Diego City Council foam ban
Staff | TPIN
CALPIRG Chapter leader Rachel Tseng testifies to San Diego City Council in support of a citywide foam ban

On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council approved a Single-Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance, which bans polystyrene foam food containers, utensils, coolers and pool toys effective next year. 

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that we produce more than 3 million tons of polystyrene every year, and Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion polystyrene cups every year, or about 82 cups per person.

The problem is that there is no “away”. Polystyrene, commonly called Styrofoam, is not recyclable, so the plastic ends up in our landfills, burned in polluting incinerators, or in our environment. The plastic breaks into small pieces that have been found in every corner of the globe. Microplastics have even been found inside human bodies, potentially exposing us to harmful compounds and additives. 

The upstream production of so much single-use plastic also causes problems. The extraction and refinement of fossil fuel for plastics releases an array of toxic substances into the air and water, including known carcinogens and neurotoxins. 

As CALPIRG at UC San Diego Chapter Chair Byul Sak told KPBS San Diego, “It’s a human health issue. It’s an environment issue. It’s a climate issue.”

We’ve known for a long time that we don’t polystyrene, and that sustainable alternatives are available. Over 100 cities in California have taken action to restrict polystyrene, and now we get to add San Diego to that list. 

CALPIRG commends San Diego for making this important move to reduce waste in our communities. 

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