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San Luis Obispo extends plastic ban

Wikimedia Commons/Horia Varlan

Elected officials in San Luis Obispo voted unanimously this week to curb the use plastic disposable straws, water bottles, and cups throughout the city. 

The city council held public hearings Tuesday on two separate new laws - one that directs San Luis Obispo businesses to only provide plastic straws to customers when requested, and another to ban city government's use of single-use plastic water bottles. City staff says the ordinances are designed to reduce the amount of plastic waste going into county landfills. The Integrated Waste Management Authority says 400,000 straws are used daily in San Luis Obispo County.

Mary Ciesinski, executive director of the non-profit Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO),  said plastic straws aren’t recyclable in San Luis Obispo County. During ECOSLO’s annual coastal cleanup day in September, the group picked up 6,500 pounds of trash.

“Plastic straws have been among the top 11 items collected during SLO County’s coastal cleanup day for four out of the past five years,” Ciesinski said at Tuesday's city council meeting.   

Despite Council member Andy Pease voting in favor of the straw ordinance, she said the straw regulation was quote “on the line of reasonable government intervention.” 

“A lot of times there’s a problem and we put government into the middle of solving it. Whereas I think with this one, it could also have been effective to have education and outreach," Pease said. 

The plastic bottle and cup ordinance regulates the distribution of plastic bottles and cups on city property and during city events. It also calls for the installation of ten new water bottle filling stations across the city, to augment the existing six, in the next two years.

The new laws kick in on March 1 to give residents time to adjust, according to city staff.

The city's sustainability coordinator, Marcus Carloni, said the city plans to work with ECOSLO and the San Luis Obispo business One with Nature to "visit affected businesses, provide information on the ordinances, and allow time for understanding and adjusting to new regulations before they take effect."

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