“June first, plastic will die!” Malibu’s former mayor Skylar Peak joked on Monday night, following a unanimous city council decision to ban the distribution and use of single-use plastic straws and cutlery from Malibu’s restaurants.
The move, which was largely praised by many in attendance at the regular city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 12, means restaurants have just over three months to restock with more earth-friendly options, such as paper straws and bamboo forks, knives and spoons.
“We went to the Heal the Bay beach cleanup,” fourth grader Sofia Morovati told council. “What we found more than ... 90 percent of the time, I would say, is straws, and that isn’t right. I really find that we should ban straws.”
Morovati—whose mom, Sheila, helped spearhead the effort to combat plastics in Malibu—may have been the youngest of the more than a dozen community members and spokespeople for local nonprofits who came to speak Monday, but she vocalized the opinion of the vast majority: Plastic straws should no longer be distributed in Malibu.
Environmental Sustainability Director Craig George opened the discussion with some staggering figures regarding the use of single-use plastics nationwide.
According to the staff report for the meeting, “an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded every day—enough to wrap around the earth 2.5 times per day.”
Research done by city staffers suggested the change would not make much of a financial impact on local restaurants.
“Although nonplastic alternatives can cost more than plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery, when similar quantities are ordered the difference is minimal,” the report stated. “As it relates to straws, it is approximately $.01 more per straw for paper straws.”
The same may not necessarily be the case when it comes to cutlery.
One local business owner, Tony Lardas, whose family has operated the Malibu McDonalds for nearly 30 years, said that although he supported the straw ban, the forks, knives and spoons used in McDonalds could present a larger obstacle. Lardas suggested allowing a type of plastic that is compostable and made from renewable sources.
“I support the efforts of the community in doing their part in trying to ban single-use straws,” Lardas told council. “PLA plastics compostable straws are made from cornstarch and sugar cane and such parts ... Now banning all plastics that include PLA plastics that use renewable sources and are compostable... there’s just not a commercial marketplace to purchase those items mentioned.”
Council Member Lou La Monte suggested allowing a few more months for the cutlery ban, to allow restaurants more time to identify sources to purchase nonplastic forks and knives, “so we can actually get some compliance.”
“I think turning around major corporations for straws and stirrers is one thing, but plastic cutlery ... may be more difficult,” La Monte suggested.
When asked to elaborate, Lardas explained it can be difficult to find bamboo cutlery in the bulk numbers he would need to stock his restaurant, and again asked council to consider using PLA plastics, mentioning that other forward-thinking cities such as Seattle and Santa Cruz allow those types of plastics, despite having their single-use ban on straws.
“I understand we’re pushing the envelope a little bit more than them, and I think they will follow,” Peak said.
In the end, the plastic ban was passed with a 5-0 vote, including the banning of PLA plastics.