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Environmentalists seek less plastic use by restaurants in Newport

Environmentalists seek less plastic use by restaurants in Newport
The Sierra Club hopes Newport Beach restaurants will cut their use of nonbiodegradable, single-use plastic dinnerware like this to help keep discarded pieces out of the ocean. (Photo by AFP / Getty Images)

The Sierra Club hopes Newport Beach restaurants will cut their use of single-use plastic utensils and food and drink containers to help keep the nonbiodegradable items out of the ocean.

Hoiyin Ip of the environmental group’s Angeles chapter pitched the city’s Water Quality and Coastal Tidelands Committee this week on a proposed voluntary plastics reduction campaign.

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She presented the committee with a draft letter she said could be sent to restaurant operators recommending the proposed reduction. The committee suggested she revise the letter and bring it to the panel’s next meeting July 5.

Ip said the city could pass the word about plastics when it contacts restaurants during regular inspections, similar to how cities encourage restaurants to conserve water by offering glasses only on request.

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Restaurants could make disposable to-go dinnerware available only on request or switch to reusable or compostable alternatives at a nominal cost increase, Ip said.

She presented a comparison chart showing compostable utensils costing 3 cents more apiece than their hard plastic counterparts when purchased in bulk.

Noncoated, nonprinted paper plates and bowls made of renewable sugar cane can cost 2 cents less to 2 cents more than conventional paper-based containers, depending on the size, she said. The inks and filmy coating on typical paper versions are key ecological offenders, she added.

Mario Marovic, whose Newport Beach restaurant holdings include Malarky’s Irish Pub, Stag Bar + Kitchen and Dory Deli, said the reduction campaign is a “great” idea.

According to the California Coastal Commission, almost 90% of floating marine debris is plastic of some kind.

“Due to its durability, buoyancy and ability to accumulate and concentrate toxins present in the ocean, plastic is especially harmful to marine life,” according to the commission website, which also notes that animals can become tangled or trapped in plastic items.

Ip said lower plastic use also could mean less inventory to manage and potentially lower trash collection bills for business owners, plus less taxpayer money spent on street sweeping and storm drain cleaning.

“Environmentally it’s important, and economically it’s important,” she said.

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