The Newport Beach Water Quality/Coastal Tidelands Committee voted Dec. 5 to continue the discussion of a proposed ban on the distribution of single-use plastic items and sale of metal foil balloons within the city limits.
Council members Jeff Herdman and Duffy Duffield, lead the committee that would recommend the Disposable Food Service Ware Ordinance to the Newport Beach City Council for approval. The target date for the ban’s launch is Earth Day, April 22, next year.
“I just want you guys to be totally comfortable with what we’re doing here because it’s significant,” Herdman said. “This is really comprehensive and it’s really complete. It’s just a question of whether you want to do it or not.”
Hoiyin Ip, a Sierra Club member based in Orange County, has spearheaded lobbying Newport Beach to ban the distribution and sale of single-use plastic items.
If approved, the proposed ordinance would also prohibit intentionally releasing latex balloons and possession of balloons on city properties.
The idea of barring Newport Beach families from bringing balloons to parks and beaches for birthdays, graduations, or weddings might seem Orwellian but ocean lovers of all stripes agree that plastic pollution is a scourge.
Committee member Dennis Baker, who also serves as treasurer for Stop Polluting Our Newport, agreed wayward balloons are a significant source of ocean trash.
“I pick them up a couple of miles offshore,” he said. “They’re just a bane on the environment.”
Committee member Tom Houston asked city staff how the proposed ordinance will be enforced, adding that the vast majority of the public will learn about the ban when approached by an officer or ranger.
“No member of the public is going to read any of this stuff, the only way they are going to find out about it is enforcement,” Houston said.
Water Quality Enforcement Manager John Kappeler said city employees have the ability to issues notice of violations that come with no fine and are largely an educational tool.
Herdman expects a robust public education campaign to be implemented before the single-use plastic item and balloon ban is implemented.
“We’re are going to enforce the law in this city and if people don’t follow the law they’re going to be cited,” he said.
Steve Rosansky, president and CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, said he hasn’t heard any uproar about the proposed ordinance from his members. Many Newport Beach hospitality businesses have already voluntarily made the switch to biodegradable straws, utensils, cups, and food containers.
“Most of the chains recognize it’s good business to be green,” Rosansky said.
As with many new city laws, the opposition will likely heat up when the plastic and balloon ban comes before the City Council for approval, Rosansky said.
Jim Walker, owner of Bungalow Restaurant, said he already distributes paper straws and sends customers home with food in paper containers. However, a plastic ban would negatively impact his catering operation, which serves wine to customers in single-use plastic cups.
There simply isn’t a biodegradable cup — that he’s aware of — that doesn’t absorb wine. He’s open to being proven wrong though.
“We’re all trying to build a better mousetrap, so to speak,” Walker said.
Water Quality/Coastal Tidelands Committee is scheduled to meet next at 3 p.m. on Jan. 9, at the Crystal Cove Conference Room at the Newport Beach Civic Center.