City Hall

Seattle Is Set to Ban Plastic Straws and Utensils

"The bottom line is this: We are creating plastic pollution at an unprecedented scale, and we cannot clean or recycle it fast enough."

By Hayat Norimine September 8, 2017

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Biodegradable paper straws recommended by the Lonely Whale Foundation and produced in the U.S. by Aardvark. 

It's official: Seattle is forgoing its single-use plastic straws and silverware. 

By July, all food service businesses will have to offer compost or paper straw and silverware options as a way to reduce plastic pollution into the oceans. Consumers use more than 500 million plastic straws per day—and scientists project that we'll have more volume of plastic than fish by 2050, according to the Lonely Whale Foundation, an ocean environmental advocacy group co-founded by "Entourage" star Adrien Grenier.

More than 200 businesses are starting this month with plastic straws to be part of Strawless in Seattle, a campaign launched by the Lonely Whale Foundation on Thursday at the Seattle Aquarium to ban single-use plastic straws in the month of September—this month's campaign alone would reduce the plastic straw consumption by 1 million, said the foundation's executive director Dune Ives. The businesses participating are committed to making the practice permanent. 

"We're a coastal city. Protecting marine environment has been a priority for Seattle for years," Mayor Ed Murray said at the press conference Thursday. He said Seattle currently recycles or composts 50 percent of all its generated waste. "Being here right now, where we are on the waterfront in Puget Sound, is a strong reminder of our marine environment and the impact that we can have on it." 

Grenier at the press conference Thursday said Seattle's just the start to the campaign, and that the foundation will expand to another 10 cities or so by next year. Seattle has been a leader in environmental change and would be the place to start, he said; while their original goal was to eliminate 500 million straws, Grenier said they're now expanding it to 15 billion. 

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"Entourage" star and co-founder of Lonely Whale Foundation Adrien Grenier answers questions at the Seattle Aquarium on September 7, 2017.

"We wanted an easy win to show that it's possible to create that model so that we can replicate it around the country," he said. 

The Lonely Whale Foundation is pushing for use of paper straws over some common compostable straw options, which Grenier said "will act just like plastic" in the landfills and oceans and still only degrades to become microplastics if it's not treated. Seattle's city ordinance doesn't ban compostable straws. 

"The bottom line is this: We are creating plastic pollution at an unprecedented scale, and we cannot clean or recycle it fast enough," said Jim Wharton, director of conservation and education at the aquarium. "The only solution is for us to reduce the flow of plastic into the ocean." 

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