Containers made from polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A city ordinance banning polystyrene foam containers and regulating plastic straws and utensils in San Diego begins to take effect on Saturday.

In stages over the next three months, polystyrene foam ice chests will vanish from beaches, and foam take-out containers from restaurants. Diners will have to specifically request a plastic straw or fork with their takeout meal, which will be packaged in a cardboard or other recyclable container.

The ordinance is designed to reduce overall plastic waste and help preserve the marine environment.

“The Polystyrene Foam and Single-Use Plastic Ordinance will help San Diego reach its zero waste goals and preserve our beautiful beaches and other public spaces,” said Mario X. Sierra, director of the city’s Environmental Services Department.

Initially banned are coolers, ice chests, beach toys, dock floats, mooring buoys, and anchor markers made from polystyrene foam. They can no longer be legally sold or distributed in the city, and will not be allowed at city facilities.

The next phase of the ordinance goes into effect on May 24 with a ban on more polystyrene foam products, including egg cartons, containers, bowls, plates, cups, lids and similar items made for one-time food use.

Plastic straws and utensils aren’t banned, but they can’t be automatically given out; customers will have to ask for them or take them from dispensers.

The city says acceptable substitutes for foam containers include recyclable plastics, aluminum and both recyclable and non-recyclable paper products. Small businesses have another year from Saturday to comply, and special waivers are available.

“The city is working with local businesses and organizations to minimize impacts and make the transition to safe, environmentally friendly materials,” Sierra said

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.