PALM SPRINGS — The future of plastic straws and other plastic and polystyrene packages could be headed for extinction in this international tourist destination.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss a potential ban at its June 19 meeting.
If the City Council bans plastic straws, it would be the second city in the Coachella Valley to restrict their use. Cathedral City voted 4-1 in December 2018 to implement a ban on single-use plastic straws. Newly elected Councilmember Ernesto Gutierrez cast the dissenting vote. He encouraged the City Council to allow the state ban on plastic straws to go into effect first to see how it works.
Concord, Culver City, Davis, Long Beach, Malibu, and San Louis Obispo also have an ordinance limiting or banning plastic straws and other items.
Worldwide, more than 400 million tons of plastic products are produced each year, according to the Palm Springs Office of Sustainability. About half of this total is composed of consumer products destined for disposal after only a single use. These “throw-away” products include plastic straws, liquid stirrers, cups, lids, expanded polystyrene food containers, disposable plates, eating utensils, and shopping bags.
Many of these items are small and are not easily recycled, so they often end up as trash in landfills or as litter in waterways and streets. These materials never fully degrade but rather degenerate into “microplastic” material that accumulates in the ocean, contaminates food supplies, or gets ingested by animals.
In 2018, the Sustainability Commission researched the growing threat of plastic waste and specifically focused on straws, polystyrene-composed packaging, and food serve ware.
The Sustainability Commission Subcommittee on Waste Reduction in November 2018 diiscovered that:
• Thirty countries have now joined the United Nation’s CleanSeas campaign to combat ocean plastic.
• In June 2018, more than 40 prominent companies in the United Kingdom joined the UK Plastics Pact pledging to “eliminate. difficult or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, or alternative delivery models.”
• 150 cities and counties in the United States have adopted ordinances banning or restricting the use of plastic consumer products: Over 100 of these initiatives are in California alone.
Research conducted by the Sustainability Commission indicates that municipal bans are more effective than voluntary efforts. Some cities have seen a 40-60% reduction in certain types of plastic-related litter following implementation of their ordinances. The city of Santa Cruz tried for 18 years to reduce plastics throughout the city on a voluntary basis
but were not able to achieve its goals. They are one example of a city that ultimately decided to adopt mandatory requirements.
There are more than 100 mandatory initiatives on plastics in California.
Whether Palm Springs adds another to the list remains to be seen.
- Plastic straws: Image by Marjon Besteman-Horn from Pixabay