Service for Six

I have picked up more than my fair share of plastic forks and spoons while cleaning the beach. In fact, I recently collected an assortment of eleven plastic utensils during one walk along the shoreline. Nevertheless, I was surprised by a recent headline in The Guardian: “Takeaway food and drink litter dominates ocean plastic, study shows.”

According to the study, which was published on June 10th in Nature Sustainability, plastic bags, beverage bottles, food containers, cutlery, and wrappers are “the top polluting products and accounted for almost half of all objects found.” In fact, lead researcher Carmen Morales-Caselles from the University of Cádiz in Spain, stated “We were not surprised about plastic being 80% of the litter, but the high proportion of takeaway items did surprise us,…” 

A Spoonful of Barnacles

The researchers concluded that bans on single-use items are one of the best options for stopping plastic pollution. Unfortunately, council members in Oceanside rejected the Marine Debris Reduction Ordinance proposed by city staff and plan to enact a resolution instead. There is nothing inherently wrong with a resolution, but a resolution that does not require mandatory compliance is not an adequate response to the plastic pollution crisis. Needless to say, Oceanside’s leaders will no longer be able argue that single-use plastics are not a city-level responsibility, because this research makes the disposable takeaway problem undeniable and highlights the need to mitigate plastic pollution at all levels of government: local, state, and federal.

Even though the Oceanside City Council is being shortsighted, there is much to celebrate. Vista city officials have taken a proactive stance, and later this month, council members will vote on an ordinance that will require that service ware items (utensils, straws, stirrers, etc.) be provided only upon request starting on August 1, 2021. In addition, polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers will be phased out by July 1, 2023. (Read the Agenda Report here.) If passed, Vista will be the first city along the 78-highway corridor and the first inland city in San Diego County to enact a single-use plastics ordinance. 

A Fork in the Sand

With that said, we need support to ensure Vista’s ordinance passes. We also need help with urging the Oceanside City Council to direct staff to develop a comprehensive ordinance that will compliment and strengthen the proposed resolution.

For an eye-opening video about our dependence on convenience, watch The Story of a Spoon, and then, join me in taking action by participating in the upcoming city council meetings in Vista on June 22nd and in Oceanside on August 4th.

For general council meeting participation details and ideas, visit City Council Participation Tips and Fact Sheets, and for information on how you can contribute in North County, please leave a reply or email janis@surfridersd.org.

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