Plastic straws, stirrers and utensils are officially no longer allowed in Seattle as the ban that of the items has officially begun on Sunday.
In a big win for the ocean, Seattle is believed to be the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws and utensils in food service, according to Seattle Public Utilities. The eco-conscious city has been an environmental leader in the U.S., working to aggressively curb the amount of trash that goes into landfills by requiring more options that can be recycled or composted.
The city’s 5,000 restaurants – including Seattle-based Starbucks outlets – 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,” Seattle Public Utilities General Manager Mami Hara said in a statement last month.
Other cities that have started to ban plastic items is a short list which includes New York and San Francisco but many are hoping that the trend to better our planet will continue as more citizens become informed and engaged on the issue.
Seattle becomes one of the first cities to make a stand against single use plastics
Single-use plastic is one of the largest threats to our environment today and is a problem that some cities are starting to address.
Seattle has become the most recent city to enact a ban on plastic straws and utensils. Starting June 2018, all businesses that sell food or drinks must offer compo-stable or recyclable options or ask patrons to forgo the tools altogether.
200 hundred retail locations in Seattle already have made the decision to not use straws or plastic utensils in September 2017.
The effort to ban single use plastics is being pushed by advocacy groups who argue that these plastics are not essential to our way of life but something we have picked up recently as we continue to live at a faster pace. Supporters of the push say the change will save 1 million plastic straws from circulating in Seattle per month alone. That many straws end to end could nearly cover the distance from Seattle to the Canadian border.
An advocacy nonprofit, Strawless in Seattle, was launched to help promote the effort to ban single use plastics. With the support of big-name influencers, including the Seahawks, Mariners, Space Needle and Port of Seattle, many in Seattle are happy that progressive actions continue to happen in their city.
Seattle’s ban on plastic straws and utensils is part of a 2008 ordinance that phases out various plastic products from the city’s food industry, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) spokeswoman Becca Fong said. Grocery and supply stores are not included.
SPU officials revisit the list each year, creating exemptions for certain plastic items — such as straws and other utensils. But come June they will let that exemption expire, Fong said.
Restaurant leaders for years have supported a switch to remove the plastic tools from the ordinance’s exemptions, she said. But they waited until the supply market advanced enough to provide good alternatives, like compostable spoons that will not melt in hot soup.
At this point, it is unclear if the city will allow a grace period for places to swap out plastic supplies after the ban takes effect in July. Also unclear is whether the city will fine businesses for serving the plastic items.
When city leaders banned plastic bag in 2012, retailers faced potential fines of $250 for failing to comply.
Many retail locations in Seattle will be using the straw manufacturer called Aardvark Straws. Aardvark is recognized for making “flexible, customizable, durable and marine degradable paper straws that decompose in just 45-90 days.”
The push to ban single use plastics, particularly straws, began in 2015 went a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose went viral.
Berkeley, Calif., is also considering a ban. And restaurants in San Diego, Huntington Beach, California; Asbury Park, N.J.; New York; Miami; Bradenton, Fla.; London; and British Columbia have pledged to ban straws or withhold them until patrons ask for them.
As this trend continues, calling or writing your local leaders, businesses and spreading word is essential. You can also make a difference on an individual level by simply letting restaurants know you do not need a straw or not use their single use plastics.