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Pismo might hop on the Styrofoam ban wagon

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Looking to follow in the footsteps of the city of San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach’s City Council is moving forward with banning expanded polystyrene food containers within the city limits.

The council heard a first reading of the proposed ordinance during its Nov. 17 regular meeting. The council voted unanimously to place the ordinance on the Dec. 15 agenda for a final vote.

The ordinance bans local restaurants and food vendors from using expanded polystyrene—more commonly known by the copyrighted term Styrofoam—food containers and cups. The ordinance also applies to any food vendors at public events in the city, and is modeled on but not an exact copy of, a similar ban enacted by the SLO City Council in June.

“Our intent was to address issues with food vendors,” said councilmember Ed Waage.

Restaurants and food vendors who currently use polystyrene would need to replace them with containers made from biodegradable or recyclable materials. If the council passes the ordinance Dec. 15, those businesses will have 30 days to use or get rid of their current stock of polystyrene containers. Violators could be fined, but first-time offenders will have the option of buying non-polystyrene products in lieu of a fine, according to Michael Draze, the city’s interim community development director.

While businesses will be able to apply for an extension if they can prove that ditching polystyrene would be a financial hardship, Draze indicated that many local businesses were already moving away from such products.

“Frankly, we talked to a number of businesses in this community and others, and they are already converting,” Draze said.

The proposed ordinance was also good news for Cal Poly senior and surfer Corey Jones, who spoke at the meeting and urged the council to pass the ban.

“Pretty much across the board in my age group, people are supportive of this,” said Jones, who added that he’s participated in several beach cleanup projects.

The ban applies strictly to food containers, and exempts polystyrene items like hard-covered coolers and surfboards, which are coated in other materials that don’t allow the foam to crumble and break down. Items like packing peanuts are also not covered by the ban.

If passed, Pismo would be just the second city to pass such an ordinance in SLO County. 

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