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Beyond the Bag: Cities Banning Disposable Utensils and Straws

Some of the most wasted plastic items are actually not needed at all. One example; When it comes to consuming beverages, straws are completely unnecessary except for a small number of people with certain medical conditions. According to the National Park Service, Americans alone use 500 million straws daily.

When research exposed the negative environmental impact of producing single-use plastic bags and the harm they do to everything from wildlife to plumbing when discarded, an international movement of plastic bag bans began. Continued research has shown disposable plastic utensils and straws are causing similar damage. A 2015 viral video showing scientists removing a straw embedded in a sea turtle’s nose brought awareness to the negative affect straws have on marine life.

While utensils and straws are typically made of recyclable plastic, most materials recycling facilities are unable to process utensils and straws for recycling due to their small size.

Now environmental organizations, conservation groups and municipalities across the country are working to ban disposable utensils and straws. The city of Malibu, California just passed an ordinance banning restaurants and food vendors from offering or selling plastic straws, stirrers and utensils to customers. Businesses have until June 1 to make the change. Like Malibu, Seattle passed a similar law last year. Starting July 1, eateries in Seattle will no longer be able to dispense single-use plastic items. Bars, restaurants, cafes and any other establishment serving food, will have to switch to compostable utensils and straws or offer reusables.

As a consumer, what can you do? The easiest thing of course, is to stop using disposables. Bring your own silverware to work to eat your lunch. Keep a spare set in a desk drawer for the days you forget. Pack reusable silverware in kids’ lunches. Skip the straw when dining out. Tell restaurant servers you do not need a straw before they bring one. When ordering take-out, decline plastic utensils. If you must drink out of a straw or it’s your preference, invest in reusable straws. Eco Promotional Products offers two kinds of reusable drinking straws, one stainless steel and one plastic. The stainless steel straw can be purchased alone or as a set with a cleaning brush. Stainless straws are easy to keep clean and can last a lifetime. The plastic reusable drinking straws are BPA free, American made and dishwasher safe. These heavy-duty plastic straws have an imprint that is laser engraved so it does not rub off and there is no ink contact with liquids or mouth.

Commit to skip disposable utensils and straws by signing a pledge at Plastic Pollution Coalition’s The Last Plastic Straw website and continue to share the movement on social media with hashtags #NoPlasticStraws and #PlasticPollutes.