Southern California

Santa Monica Expands Ban on Single-Use Plastics

The city wants to emerge as a leader in such environmental protections by eliminating plastic utensils, cups, lids and more.

The Santa Monica City Council approved an ordinance to ban a long list of single-use plastics Tuesday night.

Santa Monica expanded its ban beyond plastic straws, which is a ban that has gained popularity in many cities over recent months. The new regulations now also ban utensils, cups, lids, lid plugs, stirring sticks, bowls and the list goes on.

If local businesses want to distribute the aforementioned items to customers, they must be made from marine-degradable material, instead of plastic. Santa Monica, which is a coastal city, is the latest city to take bold measures in an effort to safeguard its coastline from plastic pollution.

"Santa Monica is not the first city to take this step, a number of other coastal cities have done it, including Malibu and Manhattan Beach," says Dean Kubani, assistant public works director and chief sustainability officer for the city. "But we are expanding it beyond what they have done, too."

By expanding the number of single-use plastic items that are banned, Santa Monica is hoping to set an example for other cites -- not only in Southern California but across the nation.

"A lot of cities always look at what Santa Monica is doing," Kubani says. "An example is plastic bag bans. We were one of the first cities to ban plastic bags and then, basically, our ban turned out to be a state-wide ban."

San Francisco and Seattle are among the other cities that have passed full plastic straw bans. Many notable companies, including Starbucks and American Airlines, have also announced efforts to stop offering plastic straws.

For consumers worried about how they will eat their takeout lunches, many eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics are starting to hit the market with noticeable popularity. Bamboo utensils and metal straws can be seen for sale in the windows of many shops in Santa Monica and are also popular on e-commerce websites like Amazon. Small pouches that contain a bamboo fork, spoon, knife, chopsticks and metal straw are designed to eliminate the need for single-use plastic utensils by giving customers a personalized pocket-size kit for everyday use. 

In the immediate future, however, Santa Monica's new plastics ban will impact more than 800 businesses, both big and small. According to a statement from the city, the ordinance requirements won't go into effect until January 2019, providing local businesses ample time to get information and assistance from an outreach program created by the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment.

Contact Us