San Luis Obispo plastic bag ban

I love living in San Luis Obispo county. It personifies so much of what the rest of the world thinks about California - Land of Fruits and Nuts. In reality, the county is full of fruit (mostly citrus and grapes) and we have plenty of nuts (almonds and olives).

But San Luis Obispo is also famous for progressive social reform. San Luis Obispo was the first county in the United States to place a ban on cigarette smoking inside public buildings. A few years later, San Luis Obispo extended that ban and became the first county in America to ban smoking on public streets and public places. Thats right- you cannot smoke outside on the sidewalk either. 

Now the county is pushing for another first. The first county to put pressure on retailers to stop offering plastic bags to consumers on the check out lane. The proposed measure would have retailers charge a $.10 tax per bag. The more extreme measure would prohibit the use all together.

So I read about this (online newspaper) one day, then the next day, a weird organization called my house and suggested that I encourage the county not to pass the measure. I guess the Plastic Bag Association of America is concerned that we may be a crack in the ice. Presumably plastic bag sales may count into the millions in our little county - but if San Luis Obispo leads the nation as it did on smoking policy - they have a lot to worry about.  I voted yes to remove plastic bags. We shop at Trader Joes and New Frontiers - they dumped plastic bags years ago.

Feb. 3rd. 2012 Here is an update

The county passed the plastic bag ban, joining many other areas of California. Now the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition is taking our county to court to try and get the ban repealed.

A lawsuit has been filed against the county’s waste management board, asking the court to set aside the board’s Jan. 11 adoption of an ordinance that would ban plastic shopping bags at most stores in San Luis Obispo County.

The suit was filed Thursday by attorney Stephen L. Joseph on behalf of the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition. It will be heard March 22 in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.

Joseph argues that the Integrated Waste Management Authority, which enacted the ordinance on an 8-5 vote, did not complete an environmental impact report, as the coalition says is required.

He goes on to challenge the affirmative vote of IWMA member Greg O’Sullivan. O’Sullivan sits on the Templeton Community Services District board of directors, which voted 3-2 to oppose the ordinance.

However, O’Sullivan also represents the other nine community services districts spread throughout the county. He has said his vote represented the districts collectively rather than just his own.

If he had voted the other way, the ordinance would not have passed because it needed eight out of the 13 votes.

Ray Biering, attorney for the IWMA, could not be reached for comment.

The IWMA consists of all five county supervisors, a representative from each of the county’s seven incorporated cities, and the director representing community services districts.

Joseph describes the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition as a nonprofit environmental organization that was formed in 2008.

The ordinance, set to take effect in October, allows retailers to distribute paper bags, but only if they charge customers 10 cents apiece.

Environmentalists have been aggressively persuading local governments to adopt similar ordinances and have succeeded in dozens of cities and towns across the United States.

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to ban the free distribution of plastic bags. Other cities and counties across the country have followed, including Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Jose, Los Angeles County, and Washington, D.C. Smaller cities such as Santa Monica, Long Beach, Carpinteria and Fairfax have enacted some form of ban or limitation on the use of plastic bags.

The Save the Plastic Bag Coalition also has filed lawsuits against Marin and Santa Cruz counties, as well as the cities of Manhattan Beach and Long Beach.

Environmental groups have accused the coalition and Joseph of being fronts for the plastics industry, which Joseph has denied.


  1. I learned from a Facebook friend that San Jose already passed the measure - so san luis obispo will not be first. He says they charge .10 for paper bags and plastic are totally banned. thanks @jimharrison

  2. WE did it! No more plastic bags - it passed in the county legislature!

  3. A lot of states in the US today are already promulgating this law. They ban plastics. This is a good way to start cleaning our environment. It is better yo use paper bags or recyclable plastic bags when shopping or going to the market. I support this advocate.

  4. The picture is quite sad. It is really unfortunate that there are people who do not practice proper waste disposal. The banning of plastic bags must serve as a lesson to everyone not just in their place, but for the whole world. environmental services

  5. We only use fresh vegetable and fruit peels and pulp type stuff -- stuff which is a by product of our kitchen prep work.


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