As Palm Springs moves to protect the environment, items from plastic straws to plastic bags could be on chopping block

When it comes to protecting the environment, the Palm Springs City Council speaks with a singular voice. It has voted unanimously to push forward with a new ordinance designed to promote reusable food ware and reduce waste from single-use plastics. The new ordinance could mean the end of some items from plastic straws to plastic bags.

The City Council first considered banning plastic straws and other plastic and polystyrene packages in June 2019.

Cathedral City voted 4-1 in December 2018 to implement a ban on single-use plastic straws. At that time, 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.

Plastic Straws to Plastic Bags Could be Banned

Disposable plastic bag

Palm Springs’ draft ordinance includes a variety of features that will be refined and re-presented to the City Council in June. The draft includes an implementation date of Jan.1, 2022, so that the City can conduct outreach and provide technical assistance while businesses transition to these new requirements.

The new ordinance will affect “prepared food vendors” that range from coffee shops and food-vending convenience stores to formal, sit-down restaurants. It includes provisions for on-site dining as well as takeout food. Specifically, the draft ordinance includes the following:

  • A broad ban on the sale and use of polystyrene food ware – in foam and rigid forms. This will also affect retailers.
  • A requirement that reusable food ware and accessories be used for on-site dining. There is an allowance for items such as paper or foil wraps, paper napkins, and tray liners.
  • A ban on petroleum-based plastic straws.
  • A requirement that food ware accessories be available only on request or in a self-service area to minimize distribution of unwanted items.
  • A ban on the use of single-use plastic bags for takeout orders.
  • A mandate for food vendors to allow the use of reusable food ware consistent with the California Food Retail Code.
  • A restriction that food ware must be free of fluorinated chemicals – a “forever chemical” found in many paper products to resist grease and moisture.

In addition, the City Council requested more information on a proposed charge for disposable food ware, asked staff to consider requiring that any disposable food ware be recyclable or compostable, and requested staff review the waivers and exceptions to ensure that they were sufficiently clear.

“The City of Palm Springs is excited to work with our local businesses to implement this new policy and advance environmental protection forward in the Coachella Valley,” Sustainability Manager Patrick Tallarico said in a prepared statement.

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.

The staff report and draft ordinance can be found on the City’s Sustainability web page by clicking here. 

Image Sources

  • Plastic bag: Pixabay
  • plastic straws: PIxabay