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San Diego is preparing to enforce its long-awaited foam ban. Who might get a reprieve?

David Garrick, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO — With enforcement of San Diego's new ban on polystyrene foam food trays, pool toys and more scheduled to take effect April 1, city officials are scrambling to coach affected businesses, clarify the complex regulations and consider emergency waiver requests.

Such requests include one from a coalition of local grocery stores asking for a two-year reprieve for raw meat foam packaging. The coalition says complying with the new law would sharply raise local meat prices and reduce availability.

The long-awaited ban, which was delayed three years by litigation from restaurants and container companies, covers foam egg cartons, takeout containers, meat trays, coolers, ice chests, dock floats and mooring buoys.

Starting April 1, retail stores can't sell those products, and residents can't use them at city parks or beaches. An exception is made for prepared foods that are packaged elsewhere and then sold in San Diego stores, such as soups sold in foam containers.

The ban, which the City Council finalized in December, also requires restaurants and food delivery services to stop giving out straws and plastic utensils unless customers request them. But city officials recently clarified that restaurants may continue to have self-service areas with straws and utensils.

City officials say they recently sent out informational mailers to 9,000 local businesses. The mailer was translated into Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.


The city also hosted a March 2 public forum in Linda Vista and conducted a March 7 online webinar. At both events, businesses asked questions focused mostly on how the rules work and how to apply for a waiver.

City officials are also relying on environmental groups, trade associations and community groups to spread the word about the ban. A special website,, has many details.

The website also has printable posters that businesses can hang at their drive-through windows or place at tables to explain the ban to customers and employees.

San Diego joins more than 130 other California cities with bans on polystyrene, including Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar and Imperial Beach. Oceanside and Coronado are the only local coastal cities without a ban.


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