Next up in Cali: Ban plastic containers

The annual Los Angeles River cleanups give you a feeling for just how much trash we dump into our home waters. The irony is that she’s using a plastic bag! (Courtesy Friends of the Los Angeles River)

UPDATE: Jan. 8: San Diego banned Styrofoam, making it the largest California city to do so.

Imperial Beach joined two other San Diego County cities in banning
polystyrene food and beverage containers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Styrofoam isn’t quite the poster child of the no-plastic movement — that would be straws — but the stuff is everywhere, in clam-shell take-out food containers, disposable cups, disposable lids, even in packaging using the adorable moniker “peanuts.” (Also, check out this gripping video about making a living selling Styrofoam boxes. It’s off-topic, but incredible.)

In this fascinating read, I found out how San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala banned both Styrofoam and single-use plastic straws to protect its most valuable natural resource, Lake Atitlan. Tourism was up 40 percent last year, as managers of the small city of 13,000 went house to house to convince people to give up their plastics.

We need more hopeful stories such as this one, especially after the 2,000-foot boom created by young Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat to clean up the parts of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch failed last month and is getting towed back to San Francisco for repairs. “60 Minutes” ran an interesting segment on the project and what Slat hopes to accomplish as we literally drown the world in our garbage. We need both legislation and technology to pull us back from the plastic-wrap brink.

Another hopeful story comes from Traverse City, Michigan. This summer, my son and I were fly fishing the fabulous Au Sable, a few hours north and inland. When we got to The Village, a collection of shops, we were dying for a cup of great brew. My son ordered it “to go,” and the barista handed him a ceramic cup. Bewildered, Will said he wanted the brew to go, to which the guy replied, “that’s OK, we only serve coffee in ceramic cups. Bring one back next time you’re in town.” The cups are all donated by customers. Let me ask you, how many cups do you have in your cupboard right now that you never use and could donate to a great cause? Starbucks, where are you in this debate?

See you on the river, Jim Burns

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