Seattle ban on plastic straws comes into force as city gets tough on waste

  • Food service businesses in the city will have to provide customers with alternative options such as straws made from compostable paper or compostable plastic.
  • If businesses do not comply with the new rules, they could face a fine of $250, according to Seattle Public Utilities.
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Keily Hotchkin | EyeEm | Getty Images

A ban on the use of plastic straws, utensils and cocktail picks came into force in Seattle on Sunday.

The move makes Seattle the first major city in the U.S. to enact such a ban, it is believed.

Under the directive, food service businesses in the city will have to provide customers with “compliant options,” such as straws made from compostable paper or compostable plastic, according to Seattle Public Utilities (SPU). If businesses do not comply with the new rules, they could face a fine of $250.

The issue of plastic waste is becoming increasingly serious. Over 8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the world’s oceans each year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Europeans produce 25 million tons of plastic waste annually, according to the European Commission. Less than 30 percent of this is collected for recycling.

Seattle’s move represents the latest attempt by authorities and businesses to mitigate the impact of plastic on the environment.

Earlier this month, for example, McDonald’s announced that it would move away from using plastic straws in its U.K. and Ireland restaurants. The fast-food giant said it would commence a phased rollout of paper straws at all 1,361 of its sites in the two countries. The transition is set to start in September and be completed by 2019.

Other businesses looking to take action on plastic waste include Evian. In January, the bottled water brand said it would produce all its plastic bottles from 100 percent recycled plastic by the year 2025.