Seattle has become the first major city in the United States to ban plastic straws and utensils. As of Sunday, July 1, the city is now officially strawless and all food service providers including restaurants, food trucks, delis, and grocery stores are no longer allowed to distribute plasticware.
Mami Hara is the general manager of Seattle Public Utilities. She told KOMO News: “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.”
According to the the National Park Service, around 500 million straws are used by Americans every single day.
Seattle has been banning single-use plastic products since 2008, adding new items to the list every year. The city stated in a notice that there are now “multiple manufacturers of approved compostable utensils and straws,” which means there is no reason to continue using the plastic version of these products.
The new ordinance includes a $250 fine for any food service provider who is found distributing plasticware, but Seattle Public Utilities spokeswoman Ellen Pepin-Cato told The Seattle Times that the focus will be more on educating businesses and helping them make the transition rather than enforcing fines.
In the first campaign of its kind, the ocean advocacy group Lonely Whale removed 2.3 million plastic straws at 150 businesses across the city of Seattle last September and replaced them with compostable alternatives. At the project’s launch, the city announced its plans to ban plastic straws in July of 2018.
Last year, The Seattle Times reported on the city’s “crazy restaurant boom,” with restaurants opening at an unprecedented rate. In 2016 alone, Seattle racked up 2.9 billion dollars in food service sales. The news agency also reported that restaurant sales have exploded by 45 percent over the last decade.