At the last legislative session, I introduced a ban on non-compostable plastic straws and stirrers in the District with Council member Mary Cheh and Chairman Phil Mendelson. The Council has declared this the Year of the Anacostia River, and D.C. needs to reinforce its commitment to clean waterways and our greater connected ecosystem.
Plastic straws and stirrers are small and slip through recycling systems, can take more than 400 years to biodegrade, end up clogging ponds, rivers and the oceans, can be eaten by unsuspecting sea life and cost the Department of Public Works significant sums to handle and clean up. A 2018 study showed that 8.1 percent of all plastic waste comes from straws and stirrers. They can be replaced with sustainable alternatives.
This has led cities such as Miami and Seattle to ban single-use plastic straws. New York City, California and Hawaii are considering similar bans. McDonalds, Hyatt, Starbucks and most recently Cava, the Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant, have made public commitments to move away from plastic straws.
Starbucks committed to phasing out plastic straws by 2020. McDonalds is phasing out straws by 2019 in the U.K. and is testing alternatives in some U.S. locations. Hyatt said it would provide straws only on request.
Since its introduction, many people have expressed their support for this legislation. I’ve also heard from people within the disability community about how this legislation will affect them; straws allow them the ability to drink independently. I value input from constituents and look forward to a public hearing on the bill and to considering possible alternatives.
In August of 2017, Washington was certified as the first city in the world to receive LEED Platinum status. The city has committed to building a sustainable future through a 2011 Sustainable D.C. building plan, by continuing to abide by the Paris Climate Accord and by adopting Climate Ready D.C. to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Banning non- compostable straws and stirrers reinforces our commitment to leading the next generation of sustainability.
We can do more to protect our environment and waterways. The Council is continuing this discussion, and I encourage Ward 2 residents to send their thoughts.
Jack Evans is the District Council member for Ward 2, representing Georgetown and other neighborhoods since 1991.