Restaurants within the city of San Diego are no longer allowed to hand out plastic foam egg carton and food containers under an ordinance passed on Jan. 8. This makes San Diego the largest city in California to ban Styrofoam products. The city of San Diego’s polystyrene foam and single-use plastics ordinance was passed in a 6-3 council vote to move the city away from non-biodegradable products and towards a goal of zero waste by 2030.

The first phase of the city’s ban went into effect in February. At that time restaurants were prohibited from giving out plastic utensils and straws unless a customer requested them. The second phase adds even more products to the list of prohibited items. The ban was rolled out in phases to allow small businesses time to obtain acceptable plastic foam and single-use plastic alternatives, the city said.

Acceptable alternatives include recyclable plastics, aluminum and recyclable paper products. Fines for violating the law will be $200 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. Restaurant owners argued the alternative, environmentally-friendly containers would cost them nearly twice as much and would force them to pass the additional cost on to their customers. “In the short run, consumers need to realize this is going to cost them more. Everyone is going to have to raise their prices,” said Damien Devine, owner of Torpasta. Businesses with an annual income of less than $500,000 are exempt from both phases until Feb. 23, 2020.

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