Restaurant Owners, Styrofoam Cup Maker Sue San Diego Over Styrofoam Ban

Local restaurant groups and a styrofoam cup maker claim that the city did 'zero environmental analysis.'
March 18, 2019, 5:17pm
takeout falafel styrofoam
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Last week, Florida state senator Travis Hutson proposed a ban on plastic straw bans, a piece of legislation that would keep bendable straws on restaurant counters until at least 2024. Although the state’s Department of Environmental Protection seems to have already taken a side in the Great Straw Wars, launching its own “Skip the Straw” campaign, Sen. Hutson’s bill would require the department to conduct an additional study into the environmental impact of straws.

As ridiculous as that sounds (pretty sure there’s a consensus at this point that plastic waste is bad?), the city of San Diego could be facing a lengthy court battle for failing to do its own environmental study on Styrofoam.

In January, the city council voted 6-3 in favor of banning Styrofoam, making it the largest city in California to go foam-free. According to NBC San Diego, the new law would affect any product made with polystyrene and plastic foam, including coolers, egg cartons, and, of course, take-out food containers.


The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on May 24, and even first-time violators could face a $200 fine, a dollar amount that increases to $500 for additional violations. And—just in case you thought they’d forgotten about straws—the law also stipulates that plastic straws and plastic silverware can only be given out by request.

Local restaurant owners haven’t been pleased with the decision, because many of them believe that switching to ordinance-compliant products will be more expensive, and they’ll have to raise their prices as a result. (The Environmental Services Department has been given the authority to award economic hardship waivers to businesses that can explain why the new containers would put a financial strain on them.)

But earlier this week, three local restaurant owners, the California Restaurant Association, and the Dart Container Corporation of California filed a lawsuit against San Diego, attempting to block the ban because they say that the city did “zero environmental analysis” before passing the ordinance. The groups also allege that city officials “ignored evidence presented to the City Council that foam alternatives might be worse for the environment,” NBC San Diego reports.

“The lack of an environmental study in San Diego prior to the city considering a ban on polystyrene food packaging is alarming,” the California Restaurant Association wrote in a press release. “The City ignored a critical step in evaluating the environmental impact that replacement products will have at local landfills, along beaches and to air and water quality. We have all the confidence in the legal process and that the court will validate our complaint.” (MUNCHIES has reached out to the California Restaurant Association for comment.)

An attorney for the city has promised to “vigorously defend” the ban. More than 115 other cities in California have passed similar anti-Styrofoam ordinances so far.