By addressing Santa Barbara City Council.
Weston Burwell, 9, urged the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday to ban plastic straws and expanded polystyrene foam products. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

If you like to eat out, and can’t finish your plate, it’s best to bring your own container for the leftovers. 

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted to ban expanded polystyrene, or foam products. The vote was 7-0.

The council also voted 6-1 to ban plastic straws, and make plastic stirrers and cutlery “on-demand” only. Councilman Randy Rowse opposed the straw ban.

“I do not think it is fair for the sea animals to eat our trash,” said 9-year-old Weston Burwell. “I hope you protect our environment by eliminating these straws. Who needs them anyway?”

The ordinance will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, and then be enforceable 30 days later, on Jan. 31.

The city, the birthplace of the environmental movement after the 1969 oil spill, is trying to catch up to several other communities statewide that have banned foam products and straws.

Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said Santa Barbara owns a greater share of the problem because it is a coastal city and more of its trash flows into the ocean. It’s also an affluent city, so as a whole it pollutes more than another city of the same size, she said. 

“I am so excited that we have come this far,” Sneddon said. “I am really excited that this is here. It’s, frankly, why I got involved in politics.”

Longtime Santa Barbara resident Bonnie Raisin spoke at the meeting, ignoring environmental arguments, and instead contending that the city was infringing on private business. 

“It is very Draconian,” Raisin said. “Pressing issues for the city should not be whether or not to use plastic, when we have gaping potholes.”

She had indirect support from Rowse, who said the city should encourage the public to resist plastic straws, rather than make it an ordinance.

Rowse, who owns the Paradise Cafe restaurant and bar, wondered what was next, “Ziplock bags” and “bottle caps”?

He said just like water conservation, the public is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to conserve on its own. 

Councilman Jason Dominguez disagreed.

“Unfortunately, common sense is just not common,” he said. “We have to regulate every aspect of people’s lives.”

Some restaurants have already asked for a “hardship exemption,” such as Blenders in the Grass, which serves its smoothies in foam cups. The company had switched to clear plastic cups, but customers complained that it didn’t hold the thickness of the smoothies

The city voted to allow companies just one exemption if they can prove that it is a financial hardship to make the switch by Jan. 1. After that, they must come into compliance and make the switch. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.