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San Luis Obispo to study possible ban on plastic water bottles

Daniel Orth/Flickr
Santa Barbara has restricted the use of city funds to buy bottled water since 2007.

Next week San Luis Obispo city officials will take a look at potentially curbing the ubiquity of single-use plastic water bottles. The city’s general plan outlines conservation goals that could be the basis for regulation.

Producing small plastic bottles of water for the American market takes an estimated 17 million barrels of oil and emits 22.5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. Once consumed and tossed, eight out of ten of those bottles end up in a landfill, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Because of environmental concerns, local governments around the country are passing laws in attempt to discourage plastic water bottle sales.

During a study session on how other cities around the country have established such regulations, the San Luis Obispo city council will discuss possibly following San Francisco's model.

In 2014, San Francisco passed a law prohibiting the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on city-owned property. In 2012, Concord, Massachusetts passed a town-wide ban on all sales of single-use servings one liter or less.

San Luis Obispo city staff recently sent out a survey to area businesses asking about their sales of single-use plastic water bottles. 38 percent of those surveyed said they sold water in plastic bottles and 16 percent responded that their business depending on those sales. 60 percent of San Luis Obispo business owners surveyed said they didn’t sell any beverages in plastic bottles. 

If San Luis Obispo ends up passing restrictions on single-use plastic water bottle sales, at the same time city officials plan to build more reusable bottle filling stations and drinking fountains.