Packaging contributes to the overall environmental impacts of the food and beverage industry. Many local government agencies, and nonprofit organizations began to take notice in the 1990s as more and more to-go food packaging, foam cups and straws were collected during beach clean ups. The concern over the negative impacts of polystyrene foam and other plastic products entering waterways and the ocean motivated local governments into action with environmentally acceptable food packaging ordinances between 2007 and 2012. This included both Monterey and Santa Cruz County and most coastal cities around the Monterey Bay. At that time, the goal of most of the ordinances was to eliminate polystyrene food packaging. This trend has continued with 116 packaging ordinances across California and beyond. There are food packing ordinances in Cities on both coasts including New York, Miami, and Seattle.
The City and County of Santa Cruz are committed to protecting the environment and to preventing plastic pollution from entering the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Both the City and County of Santa Cruz strengthened their disposable food packaging requirements in 2017. All to-go food service ware provided to customers must be recyclable, compostable or certified biodegradable including beverage lids, cutlery and straws.
On the other side of the Monterey Bay, Carmel also amended their food packaging ordinance in 2017, beginning with a policy of ‘straws only given upon request’ by the customer. On Earth Day 2018 Carmel’s ordinance added the requirement that all food service items be compostable or biodegradable. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, is a local champion in reducing their dependence on disposable plastic, from reducing packaging in the gift store, to the use of paper straws in their food service operations. They offer bottled water, but the bottles are aluminum not plastic. The Aquarium provides their guests with educational opportunities about the problems that plastics can pose when entering the ocean.
Green Businesses are ahead of the curve by going beyond compliance to conserve resources, protect water quality and reduce waste. All of us can be a little greener and do our part to prevent litter and keep plastic out of the ocean, with these three easy steps:
- Choose to reuse! Bring your own reusable mug, water bottle, food containers and shopping bags;
- Shop with recycling in mind! Avoid packaging that can’t be recycles in your area;
- Choose biodegradable or compostable products and packaging when you can.