Environment / Nature

San Juan Bautista moves to ban single-use plastics

Businesses have until May 15 to comply.

Looking to reduce its carbon footprint, the San Juan Bautista City Council unanimously approved a first reading of a citywide ban on single-use plastics at its Feb. 18 meeting. Worldwide, about 330 million tons of plastic is made annually. 

According to the city ordinance, types of plastic covered by the ban include single-use plastic bags, styrofoam, plastic straws, and other non-recyclable disposable foodware. Food services can still provide customers with plastic straws upon request, and businesses can also apply for exemptions to the ban if it creates an “undue hardship.” 

The ban is set to begin on March 17 with a 60-day grace period. Businesses have until May 15 to comply, according to a FAQ sheet provided in the meeting agenda packet. City Manager Don Reynolds said the City Council will discuss penalties for noncompliant businesses at the next meeting.

Having a grace period allows business owners to dispose of their plastic inventory; most have a several-month supply, according to Reynolds.

Councilman John Freeman said because several cities in California are passing similar bans, the new ordinance would not drive away events such as the Rib Cook-Off. 

“The traveling Rib Cook-Off people, at least if they are going to be traveling in California, are going to be hip to it,” Freeman said. “They might as well get used to it because if it’s not going to be San Juan it’s going to be San Jose.”

In crafting the citywide ban, San Juan Bautista partnered with CSU-Monterey Bay in September through the Sustainable City Year program. University students conducted surveys of various businesses in town that showed support for a single-use plastic ban from most storefronts. And while those who did not support the ban were not named in the survey results, Reynolds said the biggest businesses such as Jardines, Doña Esther’s, and JJ’s Burgers supported the ban.

Jardines General Manager Marcus Edwards told BenitoLink in July 2019 that the company’s young management group is passionate about sustainability because it was a focus throughout their education to reduce, reuse and recycle. The restaurant utilizes paper straws, plant-made cups, biodegradable and recyclable take-out containers, and compostable plastic and paper bags.

Edwards said that while there aren’t major complaints from customers about the paper straws, there are occasional customers who prefer plastic straws. He said most people don’t realize the impact that straws have because customers only deal with the one straw they use during their meal. Edwards said he used to order 2,000 to 3,000 plastic straws per week.

“I’m just ordering those to throw away,” Edwards said. “By this restaurant alone not using plastic straws, we’re keeping five cubic feet of plastic straws out of landfills every week and that’s a big deal to us.”

In his research for alternatives to plastic, Edwards said he found that a lot of companies are now offering paper options.

“It’s an industry niche that I think is picking up a lot of speed, as people who grew up in the ’90s are in leadership roles,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the new norm for a lot of restaurants across the country. Even for states that don’t champion green energy or anything like that.”

The City Council is expected to conduct the second, final reading of the single-use plastics ban at its March meeting.


Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.