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Politics

Vista Taking Steps To Ban Single-Use Plastics

A worker at When Pigs Fly BBQ in Vista prepping a to-go order using a polystyrene or styrofoam container, May 20, 2021.
Alexander Nguyen
A worker at When Pigs Fly BBQ in Vista prepping a to-go order using a polystyrene or styrofoam container, May 20, 2021.

The city of Vista is taking steps to become the next municipality in the county to impose a plastic ban.

During its April 27 meeting, the City Council unanimously approved preliminary measures for the ban. Under the proposal brought forth by Councilmember Corinna Contreras, Vista would require businesses to offer plastic utensils and straws only upon request starting this summer. The ban on polystyrene — or Styrofoam — would go into effect July 2023.

Vista Taking Steps To Ban Single-Use Plastics
Listen to this story by Alexander Nguyen.

There have been pushes for a plastic ban in Vista in the past, but there has not been a political will to do so until now, Contreras said.

Given the timing, she acknowledged that the ban may hurt businesses still recovering from the pandemic. Still, Contreras said now is the time for businesses to become environmentally friendly.

“And one of the reasons why this is a really great time to move forward is that the market has really provided businesses new ways of doing takeout right where polystyrene is not the only product out there in the market to address take-out needs,” she said.

RELATED: Imperial Beach Passes One Of The Broadest Plastic Bans In State

VID: Vista Taking Steps To Ban Single-Use Plastics

Councilmember John Franklin said he is in favor of the ban but disagreed on the approach. He said it would cost businesses $3,600 a year to switch over to alternatives to polystyrene. Franklin said more consideration should be given to small businesses.

“I think it's important that we have a strong marriage of environmentally conscious policies and real effort to reduce post-consumer waste, while at the same time we don't level large unintended taxes on small-business people," he said.

That is a concern for Dale Guinos, the owner of When Pigs Fly BBQ in downtown Vista. He said business is starting to pick up again but worried the ban could cause small businesses such as his to close up shop.

“For small businesses, we’ve had to absorb so much over the last year already with the pandemic," Guinos said. "My major concern is, 'yeah, it’s an expense.' I know that it might not sound like it, but it could actually push us over the edge.”

Franklin said for small businesses grossing under $1 million a year, their net profit is roughly 10% or $100,000. And $3,600 really cuts into that, he said.

Guinos said he is for saving the environment and his restaurant, along with many others in town, is already not offering plastic utensils and straws unless patrons ask for them. He said there are other methods the City Council could use to reduce the use of plastics without the added burden on small businesses.

Contrares said the City Council is sensitive to that.

"I do think that's it's important when we're creating a new direction for our businesses. We don't want to make it negative for their bottom line," she said. "We want this to be a positive outcome for the business community."

In a compromise, the City Council ordered staff to develop a hardship waiver policy with a sunset clause and bring it for consideration at the June city council meeting where the Council is expected to vote on the ban.

If passed, Vista would be the sixth city in the county with a plastic ban, joining Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, San Diego and Imperial Beach. San Diego is delaying implementing the ban until city staff completes an environmental impact report.