Plastics industry increasingly unwelcome in California

Solana Beach, CA, has banned the distribution of single-use plastic bottles at city events, according to an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune, and many of the citizens of that oceanside city are in favor. “The ocean is drowning in plastics, and necropsies on whales have revealed up to eight tons of garbage and plastic in their guts,” wrote Ruth Hargrove, a San Diego attorney, in a letter supporting the prohibition. “Nothing will really change until we stop the production of plastic.”

That’s a pretty harsh statement, but it tells the plastics industry, which is considerable in California, where the community stands: Stop the production of plastics! That should be a wake-up call to the 78,500 workers in California’s plastics manufacturing industry, the state with the most plastics industry employees, according to data from the PLASTICS Industry Association. 

According to the Union-Tribune article, representatives of the California Restaurant Association and California Grocers Association asked for “amendments to defer [the ordinance’s] effective date and to keep some plastic products available upon request.” That request was denied. 

Additionally, a “spokeswoman for the American Beverage Association told the City Council that soda bottles made of PET plastic are easily recyclable, including the labels.” 

They were not impressed. Members of the City Council preferred to look at studies showing that “far too few plastic bottles are recycled, and that even recycled plastic never completely goes away.” May I suggest that the reason “far too few plastic bottles are recycled” is because far too few people really care about the environment, even the “greens” of California? 

The Solana Beach ordinance does allow “disposable food service ware to be provided upon request but it must be made of compostable material.” I wonder how many composting facilities in San Diego County actually accept so-called “compostable” plastics? In my extensive research, I’ve yet to find any industrial composting facility that accepts these items, even if they are collected in some way besides single-stream recycling bins and taken to a composting facility.

“Similarly, restaurants and other food vendors must only serve prepared food using food service ware that is recyclable and compostable,” said the article.

“Restaurants will be encouraged to have customers bring in their own reusable cups instead of providing disposable cups.” 

Alert, Solana Beach City Council: Compostable plastics and much paper board are not accepted at most commercial composting facilities—only food and yard waste are suitable for composting. Just because you make a ruling doesn’t mean it’s possible for your citizens to carry it out.

There are California state regulations for diners bringing their own reusable cups and containers, although they were loosened by a new regulation that was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in July of this year that gives restaurants the choice to opt in to a safer, more regulated version of this practice. According to the new bill, establishments that want to use containers provided by patrons are under no legal obligation to clean them. However, leftover food that patrons want to take home in their own reusable containers must be put into the containers in a place separate from the kitchen’s service surface. 

The California bill also does not force restaurants to use takeout containers brought in by customers, but it gives them the option to follow more official guidelines about containers brought in from outside. Many restaurants have strict prohibitions on food containers being brought in from outside by patrons. 

The bill also changes the way food stands and food trucks operate at festivals and other events. Prior to the bill’s passage, food vendors at these “temporary foodservice sites” had to use only disposable plates and utensils. Now, “reusable items will be allowed as long as they’re cleaned on site or at an approved facility.”

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