MSW Management

Plastic Straw Police

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The first step is sometimes the hardest. It can often feel like the ultimate goal is so far away, it’ll take an eternity to get there. But all journeys start with that first step.

Banning plastic straws may sound silly and trivial to people who don’t know what we know. We know where those straws go after they’ve been used and we know how difficult they are to deal with when it gets to the recycling process. Thankfully the concept is catching on.

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Washington DC is now among the cities that have banned the use of plastic straws and according to recent news reports, there are even plastic straw police out on patrol to enforce compliance.

The D.C. Department of Energy and Environment has inspectors that are currently paying visits to restaurants advising them that the grace period to stop using plastic straws ends in July and from that point on, there will be an $800 fine.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

“Nine years after the District instituted a nickel bag tax and three years after it banned plastic foam food containers, it has turned on plastic straws — the newest target of environmentalists trying to reduce millions of tons of plastic that ends up in trees, waterways and in the bellies of wildlife. The effort has been galvanized by a viral video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nostril.

‘It’s pretty absurd the amount of resources we put into creating plastic materials that we are using for five minutes to an hour, and then never again,’ said Julie Lawson, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s Office of the Clean City. ‘Single-use plastics are taking the same cultural place as tobacco where it’s socially unacceptable.’”

The article goes on to say:

“City officials estimate that plastic straws make up less than 1 percent of the trash in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. Still, they pose a problem. Their thin design makes them too small for most recycling machinery, so they end up in trash and ultimately in waterways. Volunteers collected 10,000 plastic straws during the 30th annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup in April.

‘Plastic pollution that ends up on the street is carried by rain water into storm drains and eventually into streams and rivers,’ Laura Cattell Noll of the Alice Ferguson Foundation, a local environmental group, told the D.C. Council. ‘In many cases, this storm water is untreated, leaving local waterways choked with plastic bags, Styrofoam, plastic bottles and plastic straws.’”

For the most part, businesses are cooperating with little to no complaints. I applaud Washington DC for joining the ranks of Seattle, WA; Monmouth Beach, NJ; and few southern Florida municipalities. The more cities that ban plastic straws, the more places there are to spread around ribbing that Californians get! MSW_bug_web

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  1. Banning items is treating the symptom and not the cause. The cause is that some people are slobs and care less about the environment. So all of those that are not slobs are denied use of products that are very useful and do not harm when used and disposed of properly. This is a common problem with society. The government finds it easier to take await a right, privilege, or nicety from everybody rather than penalizing those causing the problem. So much for being a free country. We are moving closer and closer to no freedoms. We are the frog being boiled by starting with cold water.

  2. I couldn’t disagree more. Plastic straw bans seem to have begun from a viral video of the turtle. The video depicting something almost impossibly rare in occurrence. So, once again social media seems to trump all else and re-prioritize people’s understanding, beliefs, and focus. This a teapot. Let’s be real here – there are so many very significant issues with pollutants like plastics. However, straws are a very, very small percentage of the problem, yet it’s garnering a ridiculous amount of effort and priority. In my opinion, we are collectively wasting way too much effort on way too small of a problem. We’re also involving the public – not only from a education/outreach/behavior change request, but also punitive, e.g., new laws/enforcement/fines. Lame. Let’s focus on a real problems – especially if we’re asking the pubic to follow our lead.

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