Seattle becomes 1st major U.S. city to ban straws

Screenshot via YouTube  Lonley Whale

Seattle on Sunday became the first major USA city to ban plastic straws and utensils.

As the threats posed by plastic straws, utensils and other small plastic items have become clearer, environmental groups have made a broad push for cities to curtail their use through legislation.

The law prohibits all food-service businesses, including restaurants, coffee shops, delis, and pubs, from offering any disposable straw or utensil to patrons unless they specifically request one. In late May, Chile became the first South American country to ban businesses from using plastic bags, and the European Union is working on banning some single-use plastic products.

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"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", Mami Hara, the general manager of Seattle Public Utilities, told KOMO News. If they end up in the ocean, they're just as likely to harm sea creatures as plastic ones.

Businesses that don't comply with the ban can now face a $250 fine. It's no longer allowed in Seattle bars and restaurants. The paper straws are preferred to the compostable plastic ones. The success of that effort, the campaign said, coincided with the city's announcement that a plastic straw and utensil ban would go into effect in July. Then, a customer should be given a compostable option, according to Seattle Public Utilities.

Every day, people in the US use and discard an estimated 50 million straws. But because of the market, plastic utensils and straws have been exempted in Seattle's ban until now, the newspaper reported. City officials said most customers will say "no" if asked if they want a straw. First articulated in September of past year, the new ban officially went into effect on Sunday.

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