SLO IWMA planning countywide Styrofoam ban

The San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority board will consider a plan to enact a countywide ban on Styrofoam food containers on Wednesday.

Five of the seven cities in SLO County — Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo — have already enacted their own Styrofoam bans. The city of SLO was the first to enact a Styrofoam ban, having adopted an ordinance in June 2016. Most recently, Grover Beach adopted a ban, doing so in January of this year.

Each of the existing ordinances ban restaurants and stores from providing food in Styrofoam containers. Instead, businesses must provide recyclable, biodegradable or compostable food containers. Likewise, the ordinances prohibit the use of Styrofoam food containers at government facilities and bar government contractors from using them.

In March, the IWMA board directed staff to prepare a discussion on a countywide rule banning Styrofoam. Additionally, last month, the Atascadero City Council directed its city manager to send a letter supporting a countywide ordinance.

As currently envisioned, a countywide ordinance would be similar to the existing regulations that SLO County cities have adopted, and it would not preempt the local rules. Rather it would apply regulations in the five existing ordinances to Atascadero and Paso Robles, as well as to the unincorporated areas of the county.

Under a countywide Styrofoam ordinance, there would be shared enforcement responsibilities. IWMA staffers would be responsible for initial outreach and education of the public, investigating complaints and contacting offending restaurants or stores. If a business would continue to violate the ordinance after a visit by the IWMA, the agency would turn over enforcement to the local jurisdiction.

If the board instructs IWMA staff on Wednesday to prepare an ordinance, the first reading of the regulations would take place at the waste management board’s Sept. 12 meeting. Final adoption of the Styrofoam ban would be slated for Nov. 14.

Currently, about 115 California cities or counties have Styrofoam ordinances, according to the IWMA. Of those regulations, 13 apply to government facilities only and 24 include the retail sale of products.