Beginning Sunday, you had better not find plastic straws, utensils, or cocktail picks inside your favorite Capitol Hill bars, cafes, and restaurants.
July 1st marks the start of the city’s ban on the petroleum-based items that can’t be recycled and are adding to the bursting city’s garbage problem.
“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,” Seattle Public Utilities general manager Mami Hara said in an announcement on the ban. “We are excited to continue our work looking for ways to reduce our plastic footprint and will continue to lead the way,” Hara said.
Seattle is believed to be the first large city in the country to enact such a ban.
The change comes after years of treating the items as an exception following the 2008 adoption of a city ordinance requiring that one-time-use food service items be recyclable or compostable.
SPU says that neighborhood businesses shouldn’t be caught by surprise by the ban.
In March 2017, SPU announced its intent to implement the ban on plastic straws and plastic utensils, and has been working with businesses since then, to help them prepare. This March, Seattle food service businesses were advised of the new requirements, by letter, and asked to take action, including:
- Use up existing inventory of plastic utensils and straws before July 1, 2018. Businesses unable to do so, were asked to contact SPU (contact info below) to establish a compliance schedule.
- Choose compliant food serviceware to meet packaging, utensil, and straw requirements.
- Provide utensils and straws only on request, and use dispensers for customers to select their own utensils and straws, if not already a current practice.
- Designate clearly marked collection containers for recyclables and compostables in employee and customer areas.
- Arrange for commercial collection service of compostable and recyclable materials.
SPU is also encouraging businesses to switch to paper straws as they choose their compostable alternatives — the paper ones break down if they end up in the water while most “corn plastic” straws won’t melt away. A big fan of milkshakes? We suggest you start carrying a special shake straw around your neck.
Meanwhile, straw and plastic fork scofflaws beware. “Failure to comply with the food service ware ordinance may result in a $250 fine,” SPU warns (PDF).
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