Plastic utensils are convenient and straws are fun for kids, but much of that plastic eventually winds up in a landfill or as litter. The environment is paying dearly for the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year, and if changes aren’t made, and fast, the problem is only going to get worse. The city of Seattle, Washington, has already banned single-use plastic bags in an effort to reduce plastic pollution, and on July 1, 2018, a new ban on plastic straws and utensils at restaurants will go into effect. [1] [2]

The city is instead making a push to allow only compostable or paper utensils and straws. [1]

Sego Jackson, the strategic advisor for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship for Seattle Public Utilities, said:

“As of July 1, 2018, food services businesses should not be providing plastic straws or utensils. What they should be providing are compostable straws or compostable utensils. But they also might be providing durables, reusables, or encouraging you to skip the straw altogether.” [2]

The Office of the City Clerk says the ordinance passed the full city council in 2008. However, the exception has been in place since 2010. Restaurants will be forced to abide by the ordinance if the exception is not renewed. Officials say the decree is necessary because disposable food service ware is a burden to Seattle’s solid waste disposal system. [1]

Despite the ordinance’s 7-year existence, efforts to ban disposable plastic food service stalled because there were no viable compostable alternatives at the time. [2]

Read: Edible Silverware Could Cut Down on Plastic Waste and Pollution

Jackson said:

“Early on there weren’t many compostable options,” he explained. “And some of the options didn’t perform well or compost well. That’s all changed now.”[3]

Only restaurants will be affected by the ban. Plastic straws and utensils will still be available for purchase at city grocery stores.

Restaurants that fail to abide by the decree will first receive a warning. If the establishments continue to use plastic food service ware, they could be slapped with hefty fines.

Many dining establishments have decided not to wait until 2018 to start making changes. A campaign called “Strawless in Seattle” is planned for September, according to Jillian Henze, of the Seattle Restaurant Association. Up to 500 local groups and restaurants will cease using straws and disposable utensils for the month.

Sources:

[1] The New York Times

[2] KIRO

[3] EcoWatch


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.