Portland City Council made the unanimous decision on November 14, 2018 to put forth a law restricting common plastic straws and utensils. The change, influenced by limitations set in other cities, states, and countries worldwide, is an effort to curb plastic, one time straw usage; it will take hold on July 1, 2019. This will prohibit restaurant owners from offering customers these single-use items unless specifically requested. In result of a restaurant not following this rule, fines ranging from $100 to $500 will ensue.
Similar to Portland’s plastic bag ban on October 15, 2011, non-plastic alternatives have been offered, but City Council makes it clear that this is not a full out ban. Many restaurants have decided to avoid plastic straws completely. One of Portland’s newer eateries, Super Deluxe, has been using paper straws in lieu of plastic since its opening, an option other businesses are sure to follow.
Reusable straws are also becoming more common, with many types being manufactured. More commonly used are the metal straws, but those alone come in many forms—such as bent, collapsible, and straight. But there are also other types of plastic ones—like solid and bendable plastics. According to Google Trends, the search term ‘reusable straw’ has on average gone up 500% since April 2018.
This upcoming law is criticized for being a quick solution to a bigger problem. Out of the 88 pounds of plastic the average person produces a year, some don’t consider single-use tools to be of importance. For now, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Some are frustrated because they believe that this policy will only cause inconvenience to consumers, as they are accustomed to already receiving straws. As the law is to stay, the only real solution to this issue will be remembering to ask.
“It’s a great first gateway item for consumers to understand what their plastic consumption looks like,” said Amy Rathfelder, who oversees environmental and sustainability policies for Mayor Ted Wheeler, to OPB. “It’s a great place to start because it’s relatively easy to remove and find alternative solutions for.” This will not only aid the environment, but also cut costs for businesses who once automatically filled customer’s bags with these utensils. After implementing an upon-request policy, Portland business ¿Por Qué No? has reported using 32,000 less straws in one month.
Portlanders have six months to decide how they are going to treat the new law, whether it be remembering to ask for a straw, buying their own reusable straws, or encouraging their local businesses to use environmentally safe straws.