San Francisco

Straw wars: Tang proposes plastics-reduction ordinance

Today, District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang proposed legislation to ban single-use plastic straws and other plastic foodware in an effort to bring San Francisco closer to its pursuit of eliminating all landfill and incinerated waste by 2020.

The announcement was made at Boba Guys on Fillmore Street with co-founder Bin Chen, along with legislation co-sponsors Board President London Breed, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Debbie Raphael, director of the Department of the Environment

"Here in San Francisco, this is quite literally the last plastic straw," said Tang. "We need to step up and do something about our wasteful daily habits when there are other alternatives." 

Earlier this month, the Oakland City council unanimously passed similar legislation, joining other municipalities such as Malibu, Davis and San Luis Obispo.

According to the ordinance, in San Francisco alone "it's estimated that one million straws are used everyday," which once disposed of, "persists and breaks down into smaller pieces and is often ingested by wildlife."

Additionally, sixty-seven percent of Bay Area street litter was found to be comprised of single-use food and beverage packaging. 

Photo: dann toliver/Flickr

“Single-use foodware and plastic straws have a significant negative impact on our health, our environment, and our streets,” said Breed. “Small changes like banning plastic straws can have a huge impact on our planet. It’s time to make better, more sustainable choices that will clean our waterways and enhance street cleanliness.”

While the ordinance is billed as a ban, "single-use items will still be available upon request or at a self-service station," a spokesperson for Tang told Hoodline via email. But "you cannot just provide it to someone in a take-out bag without first asking." 

The legislation — known as the Plastic and Litter Reduction Ordinance — also includes the use of items like plastic stir sticks, plastic toothpicks and plastic splash sticks often used in to-go coffee cups. 

Additionally, compostable foodware products must be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), and any event held on city property with more than one hundred attendees will be required to supply reusable cups to ten percent of those in attendance. 

To prepare for the ordinance's potential implementation, the Department of the Environment will be developing a comprehensive community outreach plan to raise awareness and to help local vendors comply, including multilingual outreach. 

“Plastic foodware has become the omnipresent scourge on our streets, in our waterways and throughout our environment,” said Raphael. “It’s time to bring the era of disposability to a close; this new ordinance is the next step in our City’s larger strategy to encourage more sustainable choices and reduce the volume of discarded plastics and other pollutants.”

If approved by the Board and signed into law by the mayor, the ordinance will take effect on July 1, 2019.


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