Santa Barbara to revisit proposed plastic straw ban

Jul 31, 2018

In mid-July, after several months of Santa Barbara city officials engaging with restaurants and businesses in an effort to reduce waste in the city, the Santa Barbara city council voted to pass local laws banning plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery and polystyrene—also known as Styrofoam—food containers

But at their July 24 meeting, council members voted to dial that back a bit. City of Santa Barbara Environmental Services Outreach Coordinator, Bryan Latchford, worked on both ordinances and spoke with KCBX’s Tyler Pratt to help explain what happened.

Below is the original transcript of an interview aired KCBX on Tuesday, July 31, 2018.

TYLER PRATT, KCBX Host and Reporter: The polystyrene ban will go into effect on January 1, 2019 at 2:01 a.m. But the council decided to revisit the plastic straw ordinance in September. Why is that?

BRYAN LATCHFORD, City of Santa Barbara Environmental Services Outreach Coordinator: There was some feedback from council members, one specifically, on changing some of the ordinance around plastic stirrers. It was not really part of the initial discussion; it was part of the ordinance. There were also some questions about some of the vocabulary in the ordinance and what it encompasses, in terms of defining what a food provider and beverage provider are. The initial intent of the ordinance was to specifically prohibit food and beverage providers, like restaurants and cafes, from giving out plastic straws. But there was a possibility that supermarkets could be seen as being prohibited from even selling plastic straws.

PRATT: Santa Barbara landed in some national headlines over the past week with some proposed penalties to the straw ban that included jail times and fines. Did this delay have anything to do with that?

LATCHFORD: No, I mean there was some negative feedback initially, especially regarding compliance with the ADA (the Americans for Disabilities Act). And there was some feedback about the ordinance, that it was overreach or that it wasn't entirely necessary to regulate straws. But most of the kind of outrage I saw online, or some of the misinformation around $1000 fines and penalties, really didn't happen until after it. That was not part of the discussion at all at the July 24 city council meeting.

PRATT: Is it true that city staff spoke with every food and beverage provider in the city of Santa Barbara in the months leading up to this ban?

LATCHFORD: So over the last year [since] August of 2017, we [have] reached out to almost 400 of our food and beverage serving businesses to do a survey of all of their to-go materials, so all their disposables. We asked them about what plastics, what styrofoam, what aluminum, what glass...any materials they [gave] out to customers, and that included straws and plastic bags. We found out that about 290 of those businesses use plastic straws—70 percent of the total survey.

PRATT: Is it likely that this ban will still go into effect January 1 of next year?

LATCHFORD: I'm not really sure right now. I mean, this is still really up for [the city] council to discuss and figure out. We've had support from six out of seven of our council members to move the ban forward initially, and I imagine it's going to be something they're going to discuss moving forward, especially after some of the feedback. We've received considerable feedback—both positively and negatively—from residents and from out-of-state residents, as well. And so all of that feedback is going to be provided to [the city] council before those meetings so that they can respond adequately.