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SLO County agency to reconsider polystyrene ordinance

polystyrene styrofoam.png
Posted at 5:50 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-22 23:35:53-04

Businesses and restaurants in Atascadero, Paso Robles, and unincorporated areas of San Luis Obispo County may be able to use polystyrene products a little bit longer.

The Integrated Waste Management Authority of San Luis Obispo is set to take another look at what's next for the material also known as Styrofoam.

Rock & Roll Diner in Oceano says when COVID-19 hit and take-out was the only option, they switched from paper to-go containers to Styrofoam.

"With the substantial cutting in our income, it did help having the opportunity to use Styrofoam again," said owner Marios Pouyioukkas. "It was mainly a survival skill."

The IWMA originally approved a ban in 2019 but delayed its April 2020 implementation due to the pandemic.

The board decided to follow state mandates and on March 10, it voted 7-6 to postpone the ban until a public hearing in April.

But next month, a final decision will be made to determine if the material will stay or go in restaurants, grocery stores, and even catering businesses.

Five Central Coast cities already have the ban in effect.

"Of course, if we could do it throughout the county of all the to-go containers, that would be fine but I also recognize that we didn't have the votes," said Dawn Ortiz-Legg, IWMA Board of Directors and San Luis Obispo County District 3 Supervisor.

Besides being cost-effective during trying times, the owner of Rock & Roll Diner says it keeps food from sinking through paper products.

"The cost of Styrofoam is approximately a third of paper products," Pouyioukkas said.

He says switching to paper could mean an increase in the price of your food.

"The more things cost us, the more we have to pass it onto our guests and that's just the basic rule for I'm sure not just me but most of the business owners in our area," Pouyioukkas explained.

Those against the use of the containers are concerned with the environmental impacts. Polystyrene is not biodegradable.

"It gets picked up and then blows apart quite easily and that's what gets into the waterways," Ortiz-Legg said.

Rock & Roll Diner says they will most likely switch to paper in the months to come like their other location, Pismo Coast Village Grill, which already requires it.

"I think in coastal communities, in particular, it would be a welcome start as we wait for the legislature to do more as far as our recycling situation here in California," Ortiz-Legg said.

The public hearing is set for April 14.

If the ban goes into effect, business owners could face fines for violations.

The polystyrene ban in other cities is still in effect.