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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

"Enforcement will be largely complaint-based," Ott said during the March 7 webinar. "Our goal is to let businesses know about this ordinance and how to comply with it."

Ott said fines would be a last resort. She said initial site visits after a complaint would focus on offering technical assistance to the business and possibly issuing a written warning. Fines would not begin until the third or fourth visit, she said.

The waiver request from local grocers says they support the environmental goals of the new law and intend to comply with it eventually. But the grocers, who are represented by the California Grocers Association, say they need more time.

"Operational changes, procurement processes and implementation for changes of this magnitude by grocers and manufacturers is difficult and is proving to be impossible on this time frame and scale," the grocers say.

They estimate that 80% of the raw meat products sold in local grocery stores use packaging that doesn't comply with the city's new law.

They say compliance would cost millions because it would require changes both at local stores, where they say roughly half the meat is packaged, and by suppliers, where the other half is.


They say grocers have so far deemed alternate packaging options not sturdy enough or effective enough at keeping air and moisture away from the raw meat, which is particularly vulnerable to spoilage and contamination.

City officials said they will conduct a thorough review of the grocers' waiver request, including researching possible alternative products used by similar businesses. The city may ask the grocers for additional information, officials said.

San Diego's ban was initially approved in 2019, but it has been delayed by litigation filed by restaurants and foam container companies seeking a comprehensive analysis of the ban's potential environmental effects.

That analysis concluded that the environmental benefits of banning the foam far outweigh a slight increase in truck pollution caused by the switch from foam to heavier paper products.

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