Seattle becomes first to ban drinking straws

Monday, 09 Jul, 2018

San Francisco & Berkeley are among the Bay Area cities considering a ban on plastic straws. The city made an exception for straws and utensils, since alternatives to plastic were hard to come by at the time.

The ban, which had been in the works for more than 10 years, aims to reduce the negative environmental impact of the millions of plastic straws used every month in the city.

The ordinance, which went into effect Sunday, prohibits restaurants, delis, coffee shops, food trucks, cafeterias and grocery stores from providing the plastic items to customers.

Seattle's 5,000 restaurants will now have to use reusable or compostable utensils, straws and cocktail picks, though the city is encouraging businesses to consider not providing straws altogether or switch to paper rather than compostable plastic straws.

"Plastic pollution is surpassing crisis levels in the world's oceans, and I'm proud Seattle is leading the way and setting an example for the nation by enacting a plastic straw ban", Mami Hara, the general manager of Seattle Public Utilities, told KOMO News.

Restaurants were encouraged to use up existing supplies of plastic straws and utensils before July. These small pieces of plastic are among the most frequently littered items, advocates for such bans say.

Restaurants that do not comply with Seattle's regulations could face a $250 fine. It's no longer allowed in Seattle bars and restaurants.

According to the Strawless Ocean campaign, straws can ruin loads of recycling because majority aren't heavy enough to make it through industrial recycling sorters.

Proposals to ban plastic straws are being considered in other cities, including NY and San Francisco.

Flexible plastic straws for customers who require them for medical reasons are exempt from the ban.