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SLO city polystyrene prohibition takes effect Jan. 1, 2016 

The city of San Luis Obispo will operate polystyrene-free come 2016.

A new ordinance that prohibits the use and sale of polystyrene containers in SLO becomes active on Jan. 1, 2016. The ordinance bans food and drink containers made of polystyrene, an unrecyclable and non-biodegradable material also known as Styrofoam, and forbids the retail sale of any polystyrene product unless it’s encased in a more durable material.

Polystyrene products used to contain raw meat and fish are exempted from the ordinance as well as foods that are prepared outside SLO but sold in the city.

Restaurants, grocery stores, and retailers will be required to use biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable products as disposable food containers instead.

Following SLO city’s lead, the city of Pismo Beach passed a nearly identical polystyrene ordinance on Nov. 17, making SLO and Pismo Beach the only two cities in SLO County to tighten regulations on polystyrene. 

Pismo Beach’s ordinance notes that, “during regular maintenance of the city’s beach, creeks and other locations within the city, the city finds and discards a significant amount of expanded polystyrene products such as clamshell food containers, cups, and plates.” 

The Pismo Beach ordinance takes effect on Jan. 14.

Both cities are allowing a grace period for businesses to transition into compliance by initially issuing warnings to businesses in violation of the ordinances.

“Staff anticipates that, for the first few months, enforcement of the new regulations would focus on warnings and education,” a Nov. 17 Pismo Beach agenda report states. “This would allow businesses adequate time to use up their existing inventories and to arrange for alternative containers.”

SLO has set a hard deadline of July 1 when the city will begin handing out fines for violation.

First-time violators will be allowed to supplant the payment of a fine with the purchase of biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable products that equal the cost of the fine.

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