Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Ready or not, Pacifica’s Styrofoam ban is here
On January 1st, Pacifica’s Polystyrene ordinance went into effect with many of the affected businesses still unaware that it had even been passed.
In response to a growing awareness of the negative effects of plastic in the oceans, many cities across the state are passing similar laws. Pacifica’s ordinance, which was unanimously approved by the City Council on October 26th, was based on Millbrae’s comprehensive ban. It mandates that all Pacifica eateries replace environmentally harmful polystyrene containers and utensils, including straws and cutlery, with a recyclable or compostable equivalent.
This comes as a surprise to Luigi Latorella, the owner of Luigi’s Italian Restaurant, who says he hadn’t been informed of the ban. “No one has told me anything. But I’m all for it,” he added, “so long as it is for everybody, it’s fair. But they have to tell us about it and give us some time to switch over.”
Ann Ritzma, Pacifica’s finance director, said that once Recology takes over the city’s recycling services, the outreach will get into full swing. “We will be putting together a handout with Recology. They have been doing this with other communities and they are very good at it. Also, they do composting, and Coastside doesn’t. That will affect the purchasing choices that businesses make.”
Councilmember MaryAnn Nihart, who was instrumental in getting the ban passed, was surprised that nothing had been mailed out yet. “Recology is not a done deal. My understanding was that there would be some notices and posting before the law went into effect, but there had been a lot of prior outreach. Don Eggleston at the Chamber of Commerce has done a lot of that and has a lot of useful information. I would encourage businesses to contact the Chamber to learn more.”
Pacifican environmentalist Shelly Reider helped coordinate Millbrae’s ban. “Other cities that have enacted similar ordinances have done a fair amount of outreach to help the restaurants to switch over. Otherwise, how would they know to use up their stock? This is a city ordinance and the city should have put something out by now. But, at least the ordinance is in place and that is something for the city to be proud of.”
Lynn Adams, President of the Pacifica Beach Coalition, was also surprised by the lack of follow-through. “I’m disappointed that the city hasn’t done more. As citizens, we need to help to make businesses aware, and appreciate the extra cost involved. I hope we can all find other ways to take Styrofoam out of our lives, whether it’s egg cartons, unneeded packaging or what utensils we use for picnics.”
Ritzma said at this point the city has no plans to prosecute non-compliant restaurants. “For now we want to inform and work with the businesses, and use a carrot rather than a stick. They can come forward to say they need help or more time. There is also an exemption for hardship or lack of a suitable product.”
For Councilmember Nihart, the biggest obstacle is finding time and resources while the city faces other pressing needs. “We’ve got some serious budget cuts, and it’s going to be tough going. That being said, just because you passed an ordinance doesn’t mean your work is done.” Nevertheless, she strongly believes that the ordinance was the right thing to do. “I’m glad that the Council unanimously supported the ban and the community is behind it. Now we need to do our part to help the businesses do theirs.”
Submitted by Ian Butler