As the early impacts of climate change begin to unfold, people are taking bold steps to care for the environment.
One of the biggest dangers to land and sea is plastic—and minimizing the use of singleuse plastic bags, straws and containers has become a call to arms for those who worry that the planet is becoming choked with its own trash.
After California voters approved Proposition 67 two years ago, which banned the use of plastic bags across the state, several cities advanced the cause by prohibiting the use of plastic cutlery and straws, which are often cited among the top causes of creek and ocean pollution. San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Manhattan Beach were among the first to ban restaurants from using plastic straws, and on June 1, the Malibu City Council added straws, stirrers and utensils to its list of prohibited plastics.
“Malibu is ahead of the curve on addressing the plastic pollution that threatens to destroy our ecosystem, from our previous bans on plastic bags, plastic sandbags, and polystyrene foam, to our most recent ban on plastic utensils,” Mayor Rick Mullen said.
Americans discard an estimated 500-million plastic straws every day. California’s annual Coastal Cleanup Day has tracked the amount of trash collected since 1992 and lists plastic straws, stirrers and utensils as among the most common items collected.
Increasingly, businesses are replacing single-use plastic straws with paper ones, and plastic cutlery with wood products.
Calabasas stopped businesses from using polystyrene containers in 2007 and plastic bags in 2011. The city hopes to follow Malibu’s lead by banning plastic straws and utensils.
An ordinance to that effect recommended by the Calabasas planning commission will be discussed by the City Council at its Sept. 26 meeting. City Manager Gary Lysik said no final decision would be made at the meeting, but that the new law is a step in the right direction.
“It’s just an introduction to (the subject) and there’ll probably be some discussion, probably some (comments) from business owners and residents, and it’ll probably come back later for a vote, if necessary,” Lysik said.
City staff surveyed local businesses on the issue earlier this year.
Alex Farassati, the city’s environmental services supervisor, said most of the respondents had no problem with the more restrictive plastics ban, but he warned that franchises, which have corporate offices to answer to, may have more trouble adjusting to the ban than the small independent stores.
Water bottles are next
Viewpoint School in Calabasas made a decision this year to eliminate a major plastic pollutant from campus—water bottles.
Student leaders discussed the ongoing problem of plastic pollution and researched ways the school could leave a lighter footprint. They found a solution in JUST Water, a private company owned by Hollywood’s Will and Jaden Smith that packages water in paper-based cartons.
“Our student leaders wanted to take what they have learned about challenges facing the environment and make a positive impact on our campus and planet,” said Adam Yates, the environmental sustainability coordinator at Viewpoint School.
The bottles are currently being served with student lunches, and it’s expected the switch will help the Calabasas private school reduce plastic consumption by 40,000 water bottles over the school year.
In another move, the California legislature approved a bill last month that will prohibit restaurants from offering plastic straws unless they are requested by the customer. If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the law as expected, California will become the first state in the country to restrict the distribution of plastic straws.