Supervisors unanimously approve plastics-reduction ordinance

Yesterday, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation that prohibits the sale or use of single-use plastic utensils and accessories at all San Francisco establishments. 

The move aims to bring San Francisco closer to its pursuit of eliminating all landfill and incinerated waste by 2020.

The so-called Plastics, Toxics, and Litter Reduction Ordinance will amend the Environment Code, which bans foodware made with fluorinated chemicals, including plastic straws. 

Additionally, the new law will require that plastic utensils and straws only be provided upon request or at self-service stations. 

To accommodate people with disabilities or who might need straws for medical reasons, the ordinance contains a provision which allows plastic straws to be provided upon request.

Photo: mahalie stackpole/Flickr

“The negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics are astronomical,” said District Four Supervisor Katy Tang, who introduced the legislation in May. “San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change, and it’s time for us to find alternatives to the plastic that is choking our marine ecosystems and littering our streets.”

While Tang was not present for the vote, District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, a co-sponsor, spoke on her behalf and said the legislation was about changing people's behavior. "It's become so habitual for people to utilize these," he said, referring to plastic straws and "those plugs that go into coffee cups." 

"Single-use plastic food ware products "contributes to the millions of plastic items found in our oceans," while the production consumes "energy, water and nonrenewable fossil fuels," according to Tang's office. 

Tang has also pointed to litter collection efforts in 2011, of which 67 percent of approximately 12,000 pieces of trash collected were single-use food and beverage items. 

Photo: nathan falstreau/hoodline

In May, the Oakland City council unanimously passed similar legislation, joining other municipalities such as Malibu, Davis and San Luis Obispo. This month, Seattle was the first major U.S. city to pass a similar prohibition. The European Union is reportedly poised to implement similar legislation.  

“People everywhere look to us to make change toward a cleaner environment,” said Tang. “We must take a stand for our environment because we are entrusted by future generations to do so.”

"Here in San Francisco, this is quite literally the last plastic straw," Tang said in May.

The Board will take its second vote on the ordinance at next week's meeting before it's presented to Mayor London Breed. If she signs the measure, the law will take effect on July 1, 2019 and businesses will be required to comply by January 1, 2020.

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