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Single-Use Plastics

Single-Use Plastic Straws and Stirrers

The City of West Palm Beach (the City) is committed to environmental stewardship and leadership and finds that it is in the public interest, safety, and welfare of it's citizens and visitors to reduce litter and pollutants on the lands and in the waters of the City. Discarded plastic straws and plastic stirrers, as well as other single-use plastic items, threaten wildlife and marine life, negatively impact the City’s stormwater management system and waterways, and litter the waterfront and waters within the City.

It is estimated that Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day. Many of these straws make their way into the ocean and waterways, where it takes approximately 200 years to begin degrading.  Non-biodegradable, single-use straws often end up in waterways where they break down into smaller, micro-size pieces that are oftentimes mistaken as food by marine life. This, in turn, can have detrimental effects not only on marine life, but may also eventually cause harm to humans by way of consumption and collateral environmental effects. According to a United Nations (UN) article, over eight million metric tons of plastic are found in our oceans every year, impacting our marine wildlife, fisheries, and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. Plastic straws are among the top 10 marine debris items.  Even after degrading, plastics never leave the environment. It is critical to reduce our dependency on single-use plastics.

On February 25, 2019, we introduced Ordinance 4836-19 to the City Commission to prohibit the distribution, sale or use of plastic straws and plastic stirrers. The ordinance was well accepted after the first reading with support from public speakers with Surfrider Foundation - Palm Beach County and Surface71 (a student organization). During the second reading on March 11, 2019, the ordinance unanimously passed and will go into effect on October 1, 2019. We have begun additional education and outreach efforts to help assist consumers and businesses with the transition. Metal straws and tabletop info will be available for restaurants and bars on a first come, first serve basis to educate their customers and provide a free alternative. We recognize that plastic straws and stirrers may make up a small portion of the plastic litter found on beaches and in waterways, but this is only a small step on our journey to reduce single-use plastics in the City of West Palm Beach.
News Release - click here!

Single-Use Plastic Straw Alternatives:

1. Reusable Metal Straws
Why use a plastic straw that you are just going to throw away, when you can use a metal straw for multiple uses? This is the kind of straw that you can form a bond with.

2. Hay Straws
Ever wonder where the word for straw came from? Hay! Made from wheat production, hay straws are great substitutes to the plastic straw.

3. Paper Straws
Paper straws are not only biodegradable, but are also beneficial for restaurants or hosts that want to make their straws fun. Paper straws can come all different colors, themes, and sizes.

4. Compostable Straws
The compostable straw was a popular first substitute to the plastic straw because of its similar feel and look. While compostable straws are better for the environment because they are made from renewable material, if they are not properly disposed of they will end up in landfills or oceans where there is no oxygen or sunlight to properly decompose, thus having the same effect that plastic does. If you use these straws, don’t forget to throw them in the compost!

5. Bamboo Straws
Bamboo straws are not only biodegradable, but they can also be reused. These straws are known for their durability. Bamboo is super sturdy and will hold up when drinking any type of liquid.

Recent plastic straw bans have prompted restaurants that wanted to keep straws to come up with creative ways to make a plastic-free straw. This is where we can find the creation of the the pasta straw (pastraw).
Source: https://www.allianceforthebay.org/2019/01/six-alternatives-to-plastic-straws/

Questions? Contact Elaine Christian (echristian@wpb.org or 561-804-4984)