Single-use plastic banned in restaurants in Manhattan Beach


The Manhattan Beach City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban single-use plastic straws and utensils in restaurants, as well as polystyrene food trays and egg cartons in grocery stores.

The new prohibitions follow bans on plastic bags and other polystyrene products enacted in the city in 2013 and 2014 and keep the city at the forefront of municipal environmental policy.

Dana Murray, the city’s environmental manager, said that as a coastal community Manhattan Beach has taken a leadership role in finding ways to prevent ocean pollution. She noted that a recent study showed 60 percent of seabirds and 100 percent of sea turtles have ingested plastics, while projections indicate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than fish. The city was among the first to ban plastic bag use, and Murray said its ordinance has become a model for other cities.

“We’ve been seen as a leader in reducing single-use plastic,” she said, noting the state banned plastic bag use in retail stories two years after the city . “It seems to be once enough cities follow suit, the state does as well, and other states follow. It can have a rippling effect.”

Murray was preceded earlier in the evening by a chorus of young environmentalists, including one middle schooler named Carter who was dressed head-to-foot in straws, an outfit he dubbed “the straw monster.” He noted that between the ages of 5 and 65 each American uses more than 30,000 plastic straws.

“It’s our turn to take a stand against pollution,” he said. “We eat the fish that eat our plastics…When I’m not the straw monster, I am a student at Manhattan Beach Middle School, and I’m also a junior lifeguard, a surfer, and an ocean lover.”

Lila Murphy, a fifth grader from Grand View Elementary, said that the straws used in the U.S. in one day are so numerous that strung end to end they would circle the Earth two-and-a-half times. “Most of this waste ends up in the ocean,” she said.

Murray said that plant and paper based alternatives to plastic straws and utensils are available. She said they are slightly more expensive, but in places where bans are enacted, restaurants don’t incur additional expenses. This is because such bans, like the one the city is enacting, require that even environmentally-friendly straws and utensils must be requested rather than made readily available in restaurants.

“Paper straws cost a little bit more, but if [a restaurant] gives out fewer of them… it comes out as a wash,” Murray said.

The only push back came from Tim James, who represented the California Grocers Association. His only objection was to a ban of polystyrene trays for meat; he said no cost-effective replacement has proven as safe in use as a container for raw meat.

“The food’s safety has to be our number one priority,” James said.

Councilperson Steve Napolitano said he took James request to heart because he and the Grocers Association had helped the city draft its ban on plastic bag use. Though Murray and others indicated more environmentally-friendly meat trays were indeed available, the council carved out an exemption in deference to James’ concerns.

“The issue with this is always where do we stop, and where do we not go far enough,” said Napolitano, who requested that the city also investigate banning plastic bottles or having a requirement that their lids —  one of the most common items of ocean pollution — be tethered to the bottles.

Craig Cadwallader praised the ban but urged the council to find ways, like including plastic bottles, to make it even stronger. He argued that recycling of plastics isn’t effective.

“If you look at the statistics, only 9 percent of plastics ever get recycled,” Cadwallader said. “…We would have a stronger plastics ban if we added plastic bottles, like San Francisco has done.”

The new bans will take effect at the beginning of next year, giving restaurants and stores the rest of this year to rid themselves of their plastic and polystyrene products.

“I think this is a good start,” Napolitano said. “There is oftentimes, especially in the Beach Cities, a race to be ‘the greenest.’ And we want to get there, along with our colleagues, but we also want to take it in proper steps, and give people their own fair hearing.”


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