As of July 1, 2018, Seattle, Washington became the largest city in the United States to ban the use of plastic straws in food service establishments. This ban was in the making for a long time, since the city adopted an ordinance back in 2008 requiring that food service packaging be recyclable or compostable. Until July 1, there had been exemptions on certain types of materials, like plastic straws, but those exemptions have now expired and all packaging in food service establishments must meet these more green requirements. Straws must be compostable paper or recyclable plastic. The single use plastic straws that we have all been used to seeing are not recyclable and merely go into landfills; or even more problematically, find their way into the world’s oceans and contribute to the death of wildlife. Seattle is not the only city that has or is contemplating such bans. The City of New York has recently been considering a similar ban on plastic straws.
But governments are not the only entities considering moving to more ecologically friendly options. Many corporations have announced plans to phase out single use plastic straws. McDonald’s has announced plans to end the use of plastic straws in the UK and Ireland. Bon Appétit Management, which manages more than 1,000 cafes across 33 states in the United States, announced plans to phase out plastic straws in all of its establishments. Starbucks just announced that it will phase out plastic straws by 2020; in fact, some Starbucks have been offering cold drinks with lids that you can sip from rather than use a straw. Alaska Airlines is one of the first airlines to announce that it will be phasing out plastic straws and stirrers, in response to environmental concerns raised by a girl scout.
The movement is gaining momentum in the United States, but has already been in effect in other nations. Queen Elizabeth II banned plastic straws and bottles from all royal estates, cafes, and gift shops. Prime Minister Teresa May banned the sale of plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton swabs in the UK. Vancouver banned plastic straws as well. Taiwan is banning single use plastic items by 2030.
Gibbens, Sarah, A Brief History of How Plastic Straws Took Over the World, National Geographic, July 6, 2018, available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/07/news-plastic-drinking-straw-history-ban/