San Luis Obispo limits use of single-use straws
–With its Climate Action Major City Goal in mind, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted Tuesday to limit the use of single-use beverage straws, an effort that will reduce the amount of plastic and paper waste that ends up as litter and in the landfill.
Climate Action, a Major City Goal for 2017-19, prioritizes the city’s climate action efforts and has an overall goal of reducing community-wide greenhouse gas emissions.
The “Straws Upon Request” ordinance will require vendors providing single-use beverage straws, such as restaurants, bars, and cafes, to only provide the straws to customers upon request – rather than automatically placing a straw in a drink. According to the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA), 400,000 straws are used every day in San Luis Obispo County. Those straws are not being recycled and eventually end up in the landfill or as litter. The IWMA also found that 80 percent of customers will say “no” if asked if they want a straw. Meanwhile, the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO) reported that 1,363 plastic straws/stirrers were collected from local beaches at the 2017 SLO County Coastal Cleanup Day, and 1,111 were picked up the previous year, making straws/stirrers the tenth most collected debris.
Staff found that most of the input collected through its public engagement process has favored the proposed ordinance. And some restaurants have already adopted a request-only straw policy.
In separate but related measures, the city also took action to limit the use of single-use plastic beverage bottles and cups on city property and at special events on city property requiring a permit.
The plastic bottle ordinance regulates the sale and distribution of single-use plastic beverage bottles under 21 ounces in size on city property. With the new ordinance, which is not a citywide retail ban, those bottles cannot be purchased by the city and cannot be sold or distributed at events on City property requiring a permit. The ordinance also stipulates that beverages cannot be served in other single-use containers, such as single-use plastic cups, requiring the use of reusable containers instead.
The plastic bottle ordinance also includes a commitment to increase the availability of drinking water in public places, with an emphasis on water bottle filling stations. Already, six water bottle filling stations have been installed, and the City expects ten more to be installed by the end of 2019.
City staff will work with two local organizations, the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO) and 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 on March 1, 2018.