July 4th, 2018
Seattle has become the first US city to impose a citywide ban on plastic straws and cutlery.
The ban, which affects all 5,000 eateries and bars across the Emerald City, went to effect on July 1. Businesses caught using the contraband items can face up to $250 in fines.
The move follows concern from Seattle officials over the impossibility of recycling the tiny slurping devices, with the move coming as part of the Seattle municipality’s broader campaign against landfill and water-clogging waste.
In the US alone, an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used and disposed of every day. The tiny tubes and their dire impact on both the land and marine environment have invoked a public outcry for a ban in recent years.
Seattleites can now only request compostable plastic and paper straws in pubs and restaurants, although this is still not a great option for the environment.
Similar to petroleum-based straws, compostable ones are single-use and will remain in the environment for years if not send to proper composting facilities.
Some environmental campaigners in Seattle argue that restaurants should ditch straws altogether. “Imagine drinking a glass of water without a straw in it. It actually is possible,” Dune Ives, one of the founders of Strawless in Seattle told NPR recently.
Celebrities such as Hollywood actor, and founder of The Lonely Whale Foundation, Adrian Grenier, are fighting to rid the oceans of the straw problem by lending their voice to the Strawless Ocean Initiative.
People with certain hand and cerebral disabilities, however, largely avail of plastic straws as paper alternatives can shrivel up when submerged in beverages.
Metal straws are reportedly the most eco-conscious and suitable alternatives for people with disabilities.
After the news of Seattle’s plastic ban, groups in New York and San Francisco expressed their interest in following in the footsteps of their north-westerly neighbour.
In Ireland, Croke Park became the country’s first GAA stadium to ban single-use plastics such as straws and utensils from its premises in June. The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) has also urged its 2,500 members to implement a ban on plastic straws.
In Britain, Queen Elizabeth II banned the use of plastic straws in Buckingham Palace, inspiring McDonald’s to impose the same plastic sanction across its 1,300 UK restaurants.
The plastic blockade has also forced large companies to come up with sustainable alternatives. Starbucks, for example, has unveiled new lids for their cold beverages designed to make strawless-sipping easier.