Legislation banning the use of plastic straws and utensils in Seattle came into action on Sunday, making the Emerald City the first major city in the US to do so.
"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," said Mami Hara, general manager of Seattle Public Utilities, KOMO News reported last month.
This means Seattle's bars and restaurants will have to swap plastic straws for more sustainable alternatives (think: paper, bamboo, and even compostable plastic) – or they can choose not to provide straws full stop. Any business found to be flouting the ban will be presented with a fine of up to $250. However, officials have assured local companies they will be working with businesses to make the transition to plastic-free as smooth as possible and have allowed exemptions for certain items until eco-friendly alternatives are found.
The new law is just the latest addition to a 2008 ordinance that aims to get food and drink businesses to ditch single-use plastics and start using recyclable or compostable substitutes. It was also under this ordinance that the city introduced a tax on plastic bags in 2012.
While this is all good news for the environment – not even the remotest regions on the planet can escape humanity's obsession with plastic unscathed – some are criticizing the policy, saying it discriminates against people who are disabled. There are concerns that paper and glass alternatives may not always be a safe option for people who need straws just to be able to drink independently.