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San Diego ban on Styrofoam containers goes into effect after years of delay

Foam soup containers are stacked in a New York restaurant, Feb. 14, 2013.
Associated Press
Foam soup containers are stacked in a New York restaurant, Feb. 14, 2013.

San Diego's ban on containers made of polystyrene foam goes into effect Saturday after four years of delays due to a lawsuit.

The City Council adopted the Single Use Plastic Reduction Ordinance last November. The law bans restaurants and other businesses from distributing products made of polystyrene foam, often sold under the brand name Styrofoam. Businesses are also barred from giving out single-use plastic straws or utensils unless a customer requests them.

Bobby Kokinda, owner of Ocean Beach Meat Company, said while plastic foam products are typically cheaper than paper or hard plastic, he still supports the ban. Plastic foam does not biodegrade, but rather breaks down into tiny microplastics that can pollute rivers, bays and beaches.


"If for some chance something flies into the ocean, I'd rather it be a piece of paper than a piece of Styrofoam that's going to be there for the next 3,000 years," Kokinda said. "We're struggling like everyone is right now, (but) I never would even consider using Styrofoam for my to-go stuff."

The City Council first adopted the plastic foam ban in 2019, but was hit with a lawsuit from restaurants and plastic manufacturers. They successfully argued that the city was required to study the ban's environmental impacts. That study took several years, during which the ban was unenforceable.

City officials are distributing fliers in English, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese educating businesses about the new law. Businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income have an extra year to comply.