SEATTLE HAS JOINED THE LIST OF CITIES, COUNTRIES AND CORPORATIONS ON PLANET EARTH TO ADOPT A PLASTIC STRAW BAN. The measure, which went into effect July 1, bans straws and plastic utensils in bars and restaurants.
The move is a step forward in the worldwide campaign to cut down on the amount of plastics entering the environment, especially the world’s oceans. It’s estimated that Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. Many of them make their way into the sea, whether directly from being discarded on beaches or boats, or indirectly from recycling sites and landfills.
CITIES, NATIONS, CONTINENTS
Straws are just one element of the plastics issue, but it’s a start. Seattle joins smaller localities like Malibu and San Luis Obispo in California n enacting a plastic straw ban. Cities like San Francisco and New York are said to be considering the idea.
California already bans disposable plastic shopping bags, along with Bangladesh, China, Kenya and Rwanda. France has approved a ban on plastic straws, plates and utensils to become effective in 2020.
British Prime Minister Theresa May presented a proposal earlier this year to prohibit the sale of plastic straws, drink-stirrers and cotton swabs in the U.K. Similar measures have been proposed by the European Union.
CORPORATE PLASTIC STRAW BANS
Some corporations have pitched in. McDonald’s said recently that it will switch to paper straws at all its outlets in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and will test an alternative to plastic straws in the U.S. and several European nations.
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International has announced that it will phase out plastic straws at all of its hotels, beginning with the Aria and Mandalay Bay. And Sea World has just unveiled a plan to remove single-use plastic straws and bags from its dozen parks across the country.
SMALL BUT DEADLY
Nominally, plastic straws are subject to recycling guidelines, but many don’t make it into the bins. This is especially true on beaches and boats. Small, light and easily scattered, they make it into the oceans even from recycling sites and landfills.
Although they make up only a small proportion in mass of the oceans’ huge accumulation of plastic waste, their size and shape makes them particularly hazardous to ocean life.
A gruesome eight-minute video of a straw being extracted from a sea turtles’ nostril in Costa Rica has been viewed more than 11 million times on YouTube and is credited with arousing public awareness of the massive problem of plastic pollution.
Naturally, the disposable plastics lobby opposes any kind of restriction. Bag manufacturers have succeeded in getting laws passed in at least a half-dozen states prohibiting bans on plastic bags.
PRINCIPAL SOURCES: “Seattle bans plastic straws, utensils at restaurants, bars,” “McDonald’s to switch to paper straws in U.K., Ireland,” Associated Press; “MGM Resorts phasing out plastic straws at all hotels,” Las Vegas Review-Journal; “SeaWorld bans plastic bags, straws from 12 theme parks,” Orlando Sentinel; “Straw Wars: The Fight to Rid the Oceans of Discarded Plastic,” National Geographic; “Sea Turtle with Straw Up Its Nostril – ‘No!’ to Plastic Straws,” YouTube.