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Central Coast Clean Campaign looks to clean up trash in SLO County cities

Banners like this one are an important part of the Central Coast Clean Campaign's messaging.
Courtesy of the City of Paso Robles
Banners like this one are an important part of the Central Coast Clean Campaign's messaging.

San Luis Obispo County is in the middle of what they call a “regional social marketing campaign” aimed at educating residents about how to minimize the amount of trash they put out into the environment.

The Central Coast Clean Campaign is a countywide partnership including the SLO County Integrated Waste Management Authority, Central Coast Partners for Water Quality, SLO County itself and all of the cities within it.

David LaCaro is the stormwater program manager for the City of Paso Robles. He said the campaign is based on education rather than enforcement.

“[It] is actually kind of an interesting idea, because for the most part what we're trying to do is convey a message. Look at some sort of a target pollutant, and in this case, we're looking at trash trash, litter, other debris that could be coming from an urbanized area," LaCaro said.

LaCaro said the social marketing aspect of this means that the campaign develops messaging to alter the behavior of residents.

A creek cleanup in Paso Robles.
Courtesy of the City of Paso Robles
A creek cleanup in Paso Robles.

“We want them to be aware of it, and and do what they can to to keep things clean," LaCaro said.

There’s also an evaluation component to the marketing campaign, where the various agencies and governments assess whether it’s actually working.

The goal is to make messaging uniform across the county, which LaCaro said is the most effective way to change behavior across all the different regions of SLO County.

“You push the same campaign out, and it doesn't matter if somebody's going shopping or going to the beach down in Pismo, and they're from Paso. They're going to see the same messaging."

But it’s not just limited to residents. As a tourist destination, LaCaro said it’s important for the Central Coast Clean Campaign to reach visitors, too.

“You know, it's summertime," LaCaro said. "We're going to start seeing an influx of folks coming in. Of course people want to come to the beautiful Central Coast, right? We want to make sure that the message is clear that we want to keep it nice and clean here.”

LaCaro acknowledged that Paso Robles and the rest of SLO County are a lot less urban than major population centers to the south and north. But he said trash is still a major problem, even in rural areas and small towns.

“It might not have the severity of a bigger metropolitan area like Oakland or L.A., but I think it's important to understand that we all have a part. We all have opportunity to be good stewards of our community," LaCaro said.

The Central Coast Clean Campaign’s messaging is throughout the county on things like banners and the sides of buses.

More information on the campaign is at SLO County Public Works' website, and more information on Paso Robles' involvement is on the city's website.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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