Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter and their allies have been raising awareness for roughly 3 years toward reducing the use of single-use plastic straws. Their ambition to offset marine plastic pollution finally bore fruit with San Francisco passing the Plastic, Toxics and Litter Reduction Ordinance. It bans the sale and distribution of single-use plastic and bio-plastic straws utensils, stirrers and similar items, in addition to foodware containers that contain fluorinated chemicals. It also requires all single-use foodware and accessories to be compostable, or recyclable.
It’s widely known that petroleum-derived plastics do not biodegrade and persist for extended periods of time in our environment, including at sea. A study by the 5 Gyres Institute that tested biodegradability in aquatic conditions show that bio-plastic straws made from PLA (a plant-based plastic) did not substantially degrade in a 24-month time period at sea.
“After years of picking up plastic straws off our beaches, we decided to take action,” said Eva Holman, Rise Above Plastics Committee Chair for the Surfrider Foundation San Francisco Chapter.
“In 2015, we started going door-to-door to local businesses, asking them to consider adopting a policy of providing their customers paper straws upon request.”
Within two years, Surfrider had 100 restaurants make the switch.
That’s because it’s not only the environmentally responsible thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. Many of these businesses took it upon themselves to adopt additional plastic-waste savings as members of Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program. Through partnerships with paper straw suppliers like Aardvark and Eco-Pliant, they were able to make the policy benefit both businesses and the environment.
This year, Katy Tang, a long-time advocate for the beach and a partner on Surfrider’s Hold onto Your Butt campaign, drafted and introduced the Plastic, Toxics and Litter Reduction Ordinance with input from San Francisco’s Department of the Environment, Miriam Gordon at UPSTREAM and other key stakeholders, adding to the growing support from local businesses and residents. It will take effect July 1, 2019.
This victory is the result of the collective efforts of businesses, the local government, the press, paper straw distributors, and the amazing, dedicated Surfrider interns and volunteers.
“It’s a really exciting time and we are celebrating this victory!” said Holman. “But we don’t plan to rest on our laurels – we are already planning our next big campaign and are ready to hit the streets!”