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Activists push for statewide plastic straw and styrofoam food container ban

Activists from Environment California and the Surfrider Foundation gathered at Goleta Beach Park Friday morning to push legislators to pass statewide measures to protect California’s coastline.

The laws would address plastic straws and food packaging in the state of California.

Julia McLaughlin works with environment California’s Isla Vista office and helped organize the event. She says the organization has been working all summer to advocate for a state-wide ban on polystyrene, more commonly known as styrofoam, as well as limiting single-use plastic straw consumption.

“We have the largest coastline in the country,” McLaughlin said. “And if we pass this, like the single-use plastic bag ban which is the work that Environment California did as well, we know we can set the stage for other states to follow.”

The legislation known as SB 1335 would require all food packaging used in state facilities to be recyclable. The groups are also pushing for a second bill, AB 1884, that would require that California restaurants only give out plastic straws upon request.

Mclaughlin says Santa Barbara is one of more than a hundred cities across the state that has advocated for limiting plastic straw and non-recyclable container consumption. She hopes the momentum carries over to other California communities.

“The work that we’ve been doing just in Santa Barbara is pretty exciting,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve talked to over 15,000 people in the community on this issue, have fundraised 180,000 dollars for this campaign. We know that this is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. We need to pass a state-wide ban.”

Santa Barbara council member Kristen Sneddon also attended the event and says she hopes statewide laws are passed as soon as possible in order to protect the state’s coastal communities.

“I’m very impressed with the movement of people who will canvas and volunteer their time to make this movement and bring it to the state level,” Sneddon said. “So I just wanted to show my support and come out and voice that.”

Some local beachgoers are less receptive to a statewide law. Peggy Hardy’s husband owns the Beachside Bar-Cafe at Goleta Beach Park. She says she supports using fewer plastic materials in order to protect the state’s beaches and that the restaurant stopped using styrofoam containers years ago.

But Hardy also says a law that could lead to fines for small businesses isn’t necessary. She says she would rather see resources invested in education about protecting the environment.

“More education to our children, our schools and to the public in general,” Hardy said. “People want to be responsible and I don’t believe they need to be threatened with a law or fines in order to be responsible.”

Whether necessary or not, discussions over banning polystyrene and single-use plastic straws continue here in Santa Barbara and soon the cause may carry some real momentum across the Golden State.

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