Single-use plastic products — such as straws, stirrers and utensils — have become virtually ubiquitous in the food service industry worldwide and are contributing to the ever-growing plastic pollution crisis in our marine environment.
In fact, experts predict the level of marine plastic pollution to double by 2025 if current trends continue, and small plastic items such as straws and cutlery are in the top 10 plastic items polluting our oceans and easily find their way into salt water bodies when left on the beach or are washed into storm drains.
It has been scientifically demonstrated that plastics in the marine environment break down over time into smaller particles that are ingested by fish, birds and marine mammals, often killing them. Cities, states and even entire countries bordering saltwater bodies have recognized this crisis and are taking action. To date, Vancouver, B.C., Seattle; New York, N.Y.; the California cities of Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley; Monmouth Beach, N.J. and Miami Beach and Fort Myers, Fla. have all banned plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery. Hawaii and California are now considering statewide legislation banning these items, and Scotland, England and Taiwan have announced bans to take effect as early as next year.
Edmonds has been a leader in working to protect our local environment and was the first city in Washington to ban plastic shopping bags. On May 22, the Edmonds City Council again stepped forward and passed a resolution for a phased ban of single-use plastic items (we are the second city in the state and the first city in Snohomish County to take this action).
By the end of 2018, single-use plastic items including straws, stirrers and cutlery will no longer be provided on city-owned premises. Starting in 2019, these items will no longer be allowed at outdoor events in Edmonds such as Taste Edmonds, Edmonds Arts Festival, Summer Market, Classic Car Show. etc., and in early 2020 an ordinance will be introduced requiring the local food service industry to discontinue providing single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery.
This phased approach is being implemented to provide substantial notice to the local food industry (e.g., restaurants, fast food providers, schools, hospitals, etc.) of the impending ban to allow them sufficient time to use up existing supplies of these items and to order compostable or reusable alternative products. A number of major food service providers, including Taco Time, McDonald’s, PCC, Starbucks and others are already in the process of eliminating single-use plastic items and are replacing them with compostable alternatives (paper, wood, plant resin-based, etc.) now available in the market.
Additionally, the Edmonds ordinance will make provisions for individuals who need plastic straws due to physical challenges, such as hospital patients or elderly residents of retirement homes.
Before the full ban takes effect in 2020, what can you do? We encourage you to reduce or discontinue plastic straw, stirrer and cutlery usage by refusing them when they are offered to you by a local food service provider and encourage them to discontinue providing these items. Patronize food service providers who are proactively moving away from single-use plastic items. And consider purchasing reusable straws now available made from products such as metal, wood or glass.
I’m proud to be a member of a city council and community strongly committed to protecting our local environment and look forward to more great progress on this front. If we work together, this may be the last straw!
— By Dave Teitzel
Edmonds City Council, Pos. #5