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Berkeley Proposes Plastic Straw Ban, Reaching Peak Berkeley

Are straws the new soda?

Elena via Flickr

Following the success of its soda tax, Berkeley is now focusing on soda accessories with a proposed ban of disposable plastic straws at bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. The characteristically Berkeley proposal was put forward by City Council members last week, which was then referred to the city’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission and Zero Waste Commission.

The agencies will “reach out to business owners and store managers and other stakeholders to get their input on the possibility of providing compostable or reusable alternatives to plastic straws, like paper and bamboo.”

The proposal “is not [yet] a ban,” according to Berkeley City Council member Susan Wengraf, who clarifies that “It’s a referral for them to explore the possibility of a ban.” That basically means that the city is testing the waters to see how much Berkeley, a city known for its opinions, freaks out (or doesn’t) when faced with the possibility of ditching plastic straws. “Generally speaking, bans aren’t the best way to do business — voluntary compliance is,” said Wengraf. “Hopefully we can create a program where restaurants and coffee shops try to reduce disposable plastic straw use themselves.”

According to the proposal document, Americans discard 500 million plastic straws every day. These single-use plastics can be harmful to marine life, and even people, as they’re made from petroleum-based plastics that contain chemicals like BPA.

In fact, businesses such as Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen on Shattuck have already taken it upon themselves to give up disposable plastic straws: Saul’s switched to paper straws years ago, then to reusable steel straws in 2015, offering compostable straws for to-go beverages.

It will be interesting to see whether businesses go for the switch, given the fact that most compostable and paper straws are actual nightmares that suck the enjoyment out of your beverages. Stay tuned more news on the ban after tomorrow’s meeting of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission at 7 p.m. in the Tarea Hall Pittman South Branch Library.

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