Plastic Straw Bans Grow After Seattle Takes the Lead

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Plastic Straw Bans Grow After Seattle Takes the Lead

Plastic straws

NATIONAL REPORT — Multiple cities and businesses are getting rid of disposable plastic straws following Seattle's ban on them that went into effect on July 1.

It became the first major U.S. city to prohibit businesses that sell food or drinks from offering single-use plastic straws and utensils in an effort to cut down on how much trash ends up in landfills.

Affected restaurants and other businesses will have to use reusable or compostable utensils, straws and cocktail picks. The city is encouraging a switch to paper or not offering straws at all rather than switching to compostable plastic straws, reported the Associated Press.

"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," said Seattle Public Utilities General Manager Mami Hara.

On July 24, San Francisco took the first step to join the movement when city supervisors unanimously approved a ban on plastic straws and takeout containers treated with fluorinated chemicals. The legislation requires a second vote. If it passes, businesses offering food and drinks within the city must make the change starting Jan. 1, 2020.

Proponents of the San Francisco ban state that fluorinated chemicals, which guard against grease and water, are harmful and do not break down in compost.

On July 9, Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee said it will eliminate the use of disposable plastic straws at more than 28,000 company-operated and licensed stores around the world. It plans to provide a strawless lid or alternative-material straw options.

The company anticipates that the move will eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws per year from Starbucks stores.

"For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee, served to our customers in more sustainable ways," said Starbucks President and CEO Kevin Johnson.

The strawless lid will become the standard for all iced coffee, tea and espresso beverages. It is already available at more than 8,000 stores in the United States and Canada for select beverages.

Starbucks locations in Seattle and Vancouver, Canada, will be the first to see further implementation of the strawless lid starting this fall. Phased rollouts will continue in the U.S. and Canada in fiscal year 2019, followed by a global rollout. The company's goal is to eliminate plastic straws from stores globally by 2020.

McDonald's is also searching for a more sustainable global solution to plastic straws. Internationally, it began phasing out plastic straws in approximately 1,300 restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland after the U.K. banned plastic straws and stirrers, with implementation to come in 2019.

"Legislation in the U.S. on straws varies by jurisdiction. We have adopted compostable straws in certain markets — like Seattle — to meet regulations," McDonald's told Nation's Restaurant News.

The company did not name the U.S. markets in which it will experiment with alternatives to plastic straws.

"We understand that recycling infrastructure, regulations and consumer behaviors vary from city to city and country to country, but we plan to be part of the solution and help influence powerful change," the company said.