Sponsored By

Seattle is poised to become the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws, utensils, drink stirrers and cocktail picks.

Clare Goldsberry

July 5, 2018

3 Min Read
Now playing: ‘Strawless in Seattle’

Seattle is poised to become the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws, utensils, drink stirrers and cocktail picks. I can hear the cheers up and down the West Coast for this major blow against the evils of plastic. The ban, stemming from a 2008 ordinance that phases out various plastic products from the city’s food industry, will be implemented in September.

Add Seattle to the list of cities throughout the United States and Europe that are tilting at windmills, believing that plastic straws and utensils are at the heart of the marine debris problem. Seattle’s campaign was backed by the Lonely Whale Foundation, an organization that obviously believes that banning plastic straws will save the whales. 

According to an article by staff reporter Jessica Lee in the Seattle Times, about 200 retailers are on board with this idea to switch from plastic to paper straws made by Aardvark Straws. They are “marine degradable” and “decompose in just 45 to 90 days,” according to the company. Building on this PR opportunity, Aardvark devotes an entire page on its website to asking, “Are Plastic Straws Really That Bad?” Of course, we know the answer to that one. The page includes the requisite photos of plastic-littered beaches and the sea turtle with a plastic straw up its nostril (by the way, does anyone think this photo may have been digitally altered?). 

I suppose that the plastic utensil replacement will be made of wood (the article didn’t specify the material that will be used), which would be fitting since the state of Washington has a lot of forests and trees from which wooden utensils can be made. 

What Seattle doesn’t take into consideration is that plastic is far more eco-friendly to manufacture than paper or even wood, which involves cutting down trees, hauling them to the mill and slicing them into thin sheets from which wooden spoons, forks and sporks are stamped. 

By next July, all businesses that sell food or drinks will be required to offer “compostable or recyclable options—or ask patrons to forgo the tools altogether,” said the Seattle Times article. I can hear it now: “Never mind that spoon with my dish of ice cream—I’ll just use my hands to eat it.” 

Also not mentioned when praising paper straws is that in order for them to hold up during use (and the reason they take 45 to 90 days to decompose in water) is because they have to be coated, typically with wax, to keep them from degrading before you finish your drink. In fact, making a paper straw also means using an adhesive as well as inks—all FDA approved, of course, says Aardvark’s website.  And since most recyclers won’t accept food-contaminated paper products, the paper straws will have to be discarded in the trash.

While Seattle is promoting this as a really big deal in the city’s efforts to save the planet, it’s really small potatoes—another green, feel-good movement that provides the illusion that the citizens of Seattle have identified the enemy and will stop at nothing to destroy it.

About the Author(s)

Clare Goldsberry

Until she retired in September 2021, Clare Goldsberry reported on the plastics industry for more than 30 years. In addition to the 10,000+ articles she has written, by her own estimation, she is the author of several books, including The Business of Injection Molding: How to succeed as a custom molder and Purchasing Injection Molds: A buyers guide. Goldsberry is a member of the Plastics Pioneers Association. She reflected on her long career in "Time to Say Good-Bye."

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like