SLO Council mulls disposable bags



A familiar phrase—paper or plastic?—will likely disappear from the local supermarket scene if the San Luis Obispo City Council gets its way.

On Sept. 6, the City Council voiced unanimous approval to get rid of disposable paper and plastic bags after Bill Worrell, head of the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA), held a study session on the issue. Though the council has no direct authority over the issue of disposable bags, it does have a representative on the IWMA board.

The IWMA is an obscure county organization that regulates waste management in the county. The IWMA is proposing an ordinance to eliminate all disposable plastic and paper bags in the county.

As currently proposed, disposable paper and plastic bags would be eliminated from all county supermarkets July 1, 2012, and from smaller stores by Jan. 1, 2013. The IWMA board is scheduled to vote on the ordinance Sept. 14.

There are loopholes in the proposed ordinance, which would allow for thicker paper and plastic bags with handles to be sold at markets for a minimum of 10 cents. The idea is that the thicker paper and plastic bags would be reusable.

Kevin Rice, a local activist, thought the ordinance was ridiculous.

“I’ve been around just long enough to remember when plastic bags were touted as saving us from wasting all the paper pulp and killing all the trees,” he said. “Now we’re going to use paper again…”

Many other people at the meeting spoke in favor of the program.

“I think we need to create smarter solutions and create a paradigm shift in SLO County,” said Victoria Carranza, a Cal Poly environmental management and protection major.

John Ashbaugh, a councilman and serving member of the IWMA board, said he enthusiastically supported the ordinance and said its passing may raise awareness of other environmental issues.

“Sometimes a small act, a symbolic act like this, may make a difference in the way people lead their daily lives,” Ashbaugh said.

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