by Evan Minniti

In August, the Santa Monica City Council voted to ban all single-use plastic food materials. The ban, which goes into effect in January, would prohibit restaurants and businesses within Santa Monica from providing plastic straws, lids, utensils, etc. Santa Monica College and all food vendors on campus would fall within the jurisdiction of the ordinance.

This comes at a time when many SMC vendors have reportedly violated an agreement to not use plastic straws until March 2019. The vendors came to this agreement after a campaign spearheaded by Bronwyn Hancock, then-president of Plastic Free SMC. Hancock did not respond to requests for comment. Associated Students Director of Sustainability Brooke Harrington, who was involved in the campaign and who is a member of Plastic Free SMC, explained the details of the agreement.

“I believe that Plastic Free SMC partially subsidized the cost from our [Interclub Council] allotment to cost of the paper straws for the vendors. The implementation process would go more smoothly. I think there was a contract,” Harrington said. “I’m guessing it was sort of an honor code, because she’s not here anymore, she’s not here to check up on them. And that is something that Plastic Free SMC has started to work on this semester.”

However, many food vendors have continued to use plastic straws, as well as other food materials that were already banned by the city of Santa Monica, such polystyrene “clamshell” food containers which were banned in 2007. Harrington is in the process of encouraging food vendors to make the transition away from plastic early, before January.

“I’m in the works with the cafeteria vendors to talk to them devise a plan and maybe help subsidize some of the cost of switching over. Right now, yes they use the paper plates and sliders, but they still use plastic or bioplastic clamshells. They’re supposed to be using compostable cutlery, and not just the normal plastic ones,” Harrington explained. “It’s all about education and information… [Santa Monica’s ban on plastic] is already going to be in place, but I can help [campus vendors] facilitate that process and make it easier for them.”

One thing that Plastic Free SMC did in the past was to offer students reusable metallic straws for free. “We would be saying ‘hey, do you guys have a problem with these paper straws? Well, guess what, here is a metal reusable one we will give you for free.’ If you have such a big problem with this paper straw, first off, why do you use a straw in the first place? We just used out ICC allotment, and it wasn’t that expensive when you buy it in bulk. We still have some left over, like a huge barrel of them left over from last semester,” Harrington said.

Harrington questions why able-bodied people should use straws in the first place. “I want the students at SMC to question the convenience factor of having a straw. Do you really need that straw or is it just there?”


This story is published as part of an ongoing partnership with the SMC Corsair Student newspaper.

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