The District of Columbia is set to implement a new ban on single-use plastic straws and coffee stirrers. Poised to take effect Jan. 1, the prohibition is not limited only to restaurants and bars, but also churches, day care centers, and other entities in the city.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is recommending the use instead of alternative items made from hay, bamboo, glass, paper or stainless steel.
“@MayorBowser’s list of recyclables and compostables now requires the use of compostable and/or reusable straws and stirrers when selling food or beverages in the District. Enforcement begins January 1, 2019!” the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment tweeted Thursday.
.@MayorBowser's list of recyclables and compostables now requires the use of compostable and/or reusable straws and stirrers when selling food or beverages in the District. Enforcement begins January 1, 2019! See all foodservice ware requirements?? https://t.co/Nr0UUoNENr pic.twitter.com/Z4kJBqJipF
— Department of Energy and Environment (@DOEE_DC) November 15, 2018
The District’s government will begin inspecting restaurants, pubs, food trucks, and other businesses and organizations for compliance Jan. 1 and will begin issuing fines for noncompliance July 1, according to the department’s website.
The D.C. Department of Energy and Environment also is asking the public to report to the department on potential violators handing out single-use plastic straws or coffee stirrers.
Fines for noncompliance will start at $100 for the first violation and can range up to $800, depending on the offender’s record of previous violations, according to the agency’s environmental protection specialist, Lillian Power.
Restaurants, delis, carry-outs, bars, grocery stores and other entities are subject to fines for providing single-use plastic straws or stirrers. In addition, the list on the department’s website includes churches, day care providers, companies that provide complimentary coffee to guests, and nonprofit organizations that serve beverages at events.
The new plastic straw ban is being implemented through the Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Act of 2014, which already prohibits the use of foam or Styrofoam containers in restaurants and other products that can’t be recycled or composted.
Other local governments around the U.S. have banned single-use plastic straws and stirrers in a movement to curb plastic waste, much of which ends up in landfills or finds its way into the ocean, harming wildlife.
Seattle became the first major city in the U.S. to ban single-use plastic straws in July, and starting in 2019, California will become the first state to require plastic straws be served only upon customer request in restaurants, according to Business Insider.
While proponents of the laws insist they are necessary to protect the environment—particularly to protect the oceans—by reducing plastic waste, others argue that there’s a lack of evidence to show that many plastic straws end up in the ocean.
The Washington Examiner points out that while major media organizations report that 500 million straws are used daily in the United States, the statistic was created by a 9-year-old boy after calling straw manufacturers in 2011, and that no one knows how many straws are actually used every day.
The movement to end single-use plastic straws, however, has continued to gain momentum across the country and around the world, with a few major corporations, such as Starbucks, American Airlines and the Hilton hotel chain announcing that they will no longer offer plastic straws.
The European Parliament has also voted to ban single-use plastics.