Zach Donnenfield | Mustang News

The San Luis Obispo City Council approved an ordinance that restricts the use of city funds for purchasing small, disposable plastic bottles and cups, after a second reading Feb. 20.

“It is the policy of the City of San Luis Obispo that City funds shall not be used to purchase single-use plastic bottled beverages of less than 21 ounces or single-use plastic drink containers or single-use plastic beverage containers,” according to the ordinance.

The motion adds on to a November ordinance prohibiting sale and distribution of plastic beverage containers 21 ounces or less on San Luis Obispo city property by any business or organization, with the exception of athletic events and emergencies.

The new ordinance means that city staff cannot use public money to buy plastic cups for their staff meetings nor plastic bottles for fundraisers.

The larger November ordinance affects both private citizens and businesses at city-funded events like farmer’s markets.

Both take effect March 1, along with new restrictions on drinking straws.

Some businesses will struggle more than others with the new regulations. Heidi Hernandez is a store manager at Julia’s Juice Bar, which has a booth at the downtown Farmers’ Market. She has been looking for more information online since the first ban was approved and isn’t sure what the new ordinance will mean for the booth.

“It’s very confusing exactly how we are supposed to approach it within our business,” she said.

The juice bar sells their juice out of plastic cups and will have to find alternative methods of delivering their product. Hernandez said they likely will start selling juice out of glass jars, but that it isn’t ideal for their business.

“If [San Luis Obispo] doesn’t allow us to use plastic at all we will lose clientele,” she said. “For the mass majority, convenience outweighs sustainability.”

Councilmember Andy Pease said she supports the new ordinance.

“It is a bold step, especially since it includes all beverages, not just water, and a ban at plastic cups at those events,” she said.

Pease said the city is working to add more drinking fountains and water refill stations in the city, and there will be a transition period for six months to a year where enforcement is light, so as to help people learn to comply with the ordinance.

Pease believes people will grow accustomed to bringing their own containers to city gatherings. She already carries a collapsible cup and reusable bamboo cutlery with her in her purse.   

“I think we’ll adapt,” she said.

Interim Deputy Director for the Office of Sustainability Bob Hill said the city is trying to encourage people to use multiple-use products, instead of containers that will end up in the landfill or the environment.

“We really are hoping to see a transition in people’s behavior and business’ behavior towards using reusable products,” Hill said.

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