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Plastic water bottle ban shows good results in South Lake Tahoe

How a plastic water bottle ban has fared in South Lake Tahoe
How a plastic water bottle ban has fared in South Lake Tahoe 02:28

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — A ban on single-use plastic water bottles went into effect just over two months ago in South Lake Tahoe, and city leaders said they are pleasantly surprised at the results so far.

"As far as I can tell, we are at or near 100% compliance for the businesses in town," Sara Letton, Sustainability Coordinator for South Lake Tahoe, said.

Letton said the community has been very receptive to the ban and there hasn't been any pushback.

The ordinance passed in 2022 and rolled out in two phases.

The first ban went into effect in 2023 for city facilities and events, with the second ban going into effect in April 2024 for commercial vendors.

"Anecdotally from our recycler, it seems like the plastic water bottle recycling is down a little bit, and we're hoping that's because the total volume of plastic water bottles in the community is down," Letton said.

Stuart Maas is the Director of Marketing for Visit Lake Tahoe and said they ordered 35,000 reusable water bottles at the start of the April 2024 ban as apart of the "Drink Tahoe Tap" campaign.

He said they have given out about 20,000 so far to visitors and community members to encourage them to fill up at one of their stations instead of using plastic.

"We're just trying to change the behaviors and mentalities to really kind of move from the plastic single-use to a reusable bottle," Maas said.

He said there are about 48 re-fill stations in South Lake Tahoe at various hotels and public areas.

League to Save Lake Tahoe has seen a positive reaction from the community and said in a statement:

"After reaching out to hundreds of local businesses about the ordinance, we're encouraged to see that many are well on their way to phasing out single-use plastic products entirely. And that change is not just within the City limits. There are businesses around the Lake who are doing more than they're required to protect Tahoe's environment. That's what it takes to Keep Tahoe Blue."

"We're trying to say, 'Hey, drink our tap water. It's extraordinary.' We're not trying to say, 'Go buy another disposable water container,' " Letton said.

Letton added it can be hard to track single-use water bottles, so they hope to have more data in the future about how the ordinance has done so far.

Truckee also passed a similar ordinance earlier this year.

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