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Seattle becomes largest U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils

Illustration for article titled Seattle becomes largest U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils
Photo: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía (Getty Images)

The “Ban Plastic Straws” movement gained a lot of momentum across the country in 2018. On Sunday, Seattle became the largest U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils from its food businesses.

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Here’s what happens now if you order a drink at a Seattle restaurant: Customers won’t be given a straw unless requested, at which point restaurants can offer paper or reusable (such as metal) straws. For utensils, food businesses—this includes grocery stores, food trucks, and cafeterias—can offer compostable forks, knives, or spoons. According to this Seattle Times FAQ, cocktail picks are also banned. Flexible straws, however, can still be offered for those who use straws for medical reasons.

During a pilot program with 150 restaurants last year, the city was able to stop 2.3 million plastic straws from entering Seattle’s disposal sites. In 2012, the city was among the first to ban plastic bags (joining San Francisco and Portland, Oregon), which Seattle officials said saves 292 million plastic bags from being used each year, of which only 13 percent are recycled.

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For the plastic straw and utensils ban, businesses that don’t comply are subjected to a $250 fine, although according to a spokeswoman for Seattle Public Utilities, this first year will be focused on getting businesses to comply, rather than enforcement.

The plastic straw ban movement has caught on in many parts of the world: McDonald’s is already phasing out plastic straws in the U.K. and exploring alternatives stateside, while IKEA has already gotten rid of them completely. The Chicago White Sox has also agreed to eliminate plastic straws for the rest of the Major League Baseball season.

Kevin Pang was the founding editor of The Takeout, and director of the documentary For Grace.

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DISCUSSION

It’s not that the White Sox eliminated using plastic straws by changing over to something new. They eliminated using plastic straws by not having anyone come out to their games.