Seattle becomes the first major American city to ban plastic straws and utensils

In a first-of-its-kind law for any major American city, Seattle has instituted a ban on plastic straws and utensils at all food service businesses.

The ordinance, which went into effect Sunday, prohibits restaurants, delis, coffee shops, food trucks, cafeterias and grocery stores from providing the plastic items to customers. Upon request only, those vendors may provide people with a compostable straw or utensil.

Since 2008, Seattle has been rolling out a citywide ban on single-use plastics and removed exemptions from the list of prohibited items each year. Since there are now “multiple manufacturers of approved compostable utensils and straws,” those items’ plastic counterparts will no longer get a pass, the city said in its notice.

Related: Plastic pollution in Indonesia

15 PHOTOS
Plastic pollution in Indonesia
See Gallery
Plastic pollution in Indonesia
A Vietnamese woman drives past recyclable plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FILE PHOTO: Fisherman boats are seen in a beach with plastic waste at a the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/Files
Recycled plastic bottles are seen at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A person is seen at the beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A woman removes plastic waste stuck in tree branches near the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Recycled plastic bottles are seen at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A Vietnamese woman drives past recyclable plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A Vietnamese man works recycling plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Fishermen boats are seen at a beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A fishing boat is seen during the low tide at the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
FILE PHOTO: A woman cleans plastic waste stock in trees near the beach in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham/Files
A Vietnamese man works recycling plastic bottles at Xa Cau village, outside Hanoi, Vietnam June 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
TOPSHOT - Scavengers collect valuable waste at Sidoarjo garbage dump in East Java, on June 5, 2018. - About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world's oceans every year - the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute... of every day. Over half comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2015 study in Science journal. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman walks at the beach covered with plastic waste in Thanh Hoa province, Vietnam June 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Scavengers collect valuable waste at Sidoarjo garbage dump in East Java, on June 5, 2018. - About eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the world's oceans every year - the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic being tipped into the sea every minute... of every day. Over half comes from five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to a 2015 study in Science journal. (Photo by JUNI KRISWANTO / AFP) (Photo credit should read JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Though the ban carries a $250 fine for any businesses who violate it, city officials told The Seattle Times that the focus for the next year will be more on educating and assisting businesses with compliance than on enforcement.

As the threats posed by plastic straws, utensils and other small plastic items have become clearer, environmental groups have made a broad push for cities to curtail their use through legislation. These small pieces of plastic are among the most frequently littered items, advocates for such bans say. They also easily make their way into the ocean when washed down storm drains and are too small to be processed by recycling centers.

Last September, the ocean advocacy nonprofit Lonely Whale Foundation got businesses in Seattle to exchange 2.3 million plastic straws out for compostable alternatives as part of a Strawless in Seattle campaign. The success of that effort, the campaign said, coincided with the city’s announcement that a plastic straw and utensil ban would go into effect in July. 

A similar effort is underway in San Francisco, where lawmakers introduced a plastic straw ban legislation in May. Several beverage-focused businesses HuffPost spoke with at the time said they’re on board with the ban and have already started swapping out plastics for compostables. 

While Seattle can lay claim as the first major city to install a plastic straw and utensil ban, similar bans are on the books in California’s Santa Cruz County and in Malibu

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Read Full Story