IWMA approves SLO County-wide Styrofoam ban


The San Luis Obispo County Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA) voted Wednesday to approve a countywide ban on Styrofoam. The ban is slated to go into effect in six months.

Currently, five of the seven cities in SLO County — Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo — have existing Styrofoam bans. Each of the ordinances prohibit restaurants and stores from providing food in Styrofoam containers.

The proposed county-wide ordinance mandates that businesses provide recyclable, biodegradable or compostable food containers. Likewise, the ordinance prohibits the sale of Styrofoam ice chests, marine buoys and packing peanuts.

The IWMA is a joint powers authority made up of a representative from each of the county’s seven cities, all five members of the SLO County Board of Supervisors, and one representative from the the county’s community services districts.

SLO County supervisors Debbie Arnold and John Peschong voted against the ban noting their concerns with the six-month jail sentence for violating the ordinance, the costs to small business owners, and the possibility that the IWMA does not have the legal authority to pass ordinances.

In regards to the six-month jail sentence for violating the ordinance, Grover Beach Mayor Jeff Lee said they would fine first-time violators and only penalize willful repeat violators with jail time.

Since 2008, the IWMA has passed eight ordinances, the legality of which is now being questioned. Many of those ordinances resulted in a steady income stream for favored local contractors.

The California Constitution grants only cities and counties power to pass ordinances —  not joint powers authorities such as SLO County’s IWMA.

The California Government Code specifies rules regarding city and county ordinances. Title 1 of the Government Code list the authorities of joint powers authorities, which does not include the ability to pass ordinances.

John Daly, an attorney who worked in the county counsel’s office for more than 30 years, said the IWMA is operating outside of its legal jurisdiction.

In response to Peschong’s concerns about the IWMA’s legal authority to pass ordinances, IWMA legal counsel Jeff Minnery said the agency has the legal authority to pass ordinances and enact criminal penalties for those who break them.