PT council passes prohibition on plastic straws

Posted 7/8/20

The last straw will be coming soon to a restaurant near you.

We’re not talking about servers wearing masks or tables for diners spread six feet apart.

We’re talking plastic, …

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PT council passes prohibition on plastic straws


The last straw will be coming soon to a
restaurant near you.

We’re not talking about servers wearing masks or tables for diners spread six feet apart.

We’re talking plastic, people.

The Port Townsend City Council unanimously agreed Monday to ban plastic straws in the city, starting Jan. 1, 2021.

The prohibition against plastic straws includes its skinnier and shorter second cousin in the beverage world: the one-use plastic coffee stirrer.

The new ban will extend beyond Port Townsend’s fast-food restaurants, and include coffee stands and other food service-based businesses.

Exempt, however, are grocery stores and the hospital.

City officials noted during their first look at the draft ordinance this week that the new regulations would allow the relaxation of the rules during times of public emergency, while also giving businesses the chance to seek a waiver of the ban if it poses an undue hardship.

The prohibition includes plastic straws that are commercially compostable.

After the ban takes place, if customers ask for a straw, the city’s proposed rules say the business will give them a paper, biodegradable, or reusable straw.

Led by youth

The idea for a plastic straw ban has been percolating for nearly a year, but the COVID-19 outbreak — and the instant anchor it dropped on progressive policies that have been sailing along smoothly — has kept the proposal off the council’s docket in the months since spring.
Gov. Jay Inslee, responding to the coronavirus crisis, ordered that local governments solely focus on essential business when he adopted his “Stay home, stay safe” order in March. 

Students for Sustainability, a club at Port Townsend High School, began gathering signatures in June 2019 for a petition calling for a plastic straw ban, and found 750 supporters.

The students approached the city council in early December calling for a ban, and met with City Attorney Heidi Greenwood to talk about specifics of a prohibition in February. The idea for a ban then went to the city council the following month.

According to Students for Sustainability, roughly
500 million straws are used every day in the United States and pose a deadly threat to marine life.

Students with the club have met with a number of businesses in Port Townsend, and they’ve said there is support for a switch from plastic straws.


At this week’s business meeting for the
Port Townsend council, councilmembers praised the students for their thorough work on the proposed ordinance, and how they considered not only the goals of the ban but local businesses that may be affected.

Deputy Mayor David Faber said the students did a spectacular job on research and public outreach.

“I’m very excited to move forward on this,” Faber said.

Councilwoman Pam Adams said she was also impressed, and others agreed.

“It’s no easy feat to write an ordinance,” said Councilwoman Monica MickHager.

“I just really want to applaud you for your work,” she said to the students watching the council meeting online.

“Thank you … for making us do this,” MickHager said.

The ban won’t take effect immediately, and city officials said the delay would give the food industry a fair opportunity to use up their existing supply of single-use plastic straws and stirrers.

According to the proposed ordinance, the city notes that its a government responsibility to reduce waste, and that “the production, use, and disposal of single-use plastic straws and stirrers has significant adverse impacts on the environment.”

The ban will also reduce litter on the land and in the water, the ordinance states.

Violations of the ban can result in a $100 penalty; a second offense within two years carries a fine of $250.

The ordinance will be up for a second and final vote at a future council meeting.


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