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Seattle to ban plastic straws, utensils at all eateries after July 1

Plastic straws like these will be prohibited at Seattle restaurants after July 1. (KOMO News photo)

SEATTLE - Plastic straws, utensils and cocktail picks will be banned at all Seattle businesses that sell food or drinks under a new law that takes effect July 1.

Seattle is believed to be the first major U.S. city to enact such a ban.

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Officials said the measure is needed as part of the city's continuing efforts to reduce waste and prevent petroleum-based plastics from contaminating compost and polluting marine waters.

“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.

Seattle's efforts to reduce plastic pollution actually began in 2008, but the city had provided a year-by-year exemption for a handful of items, including plastic utensils and straws. But there are now multiple manufacturers of compostable utensils and straws, and the exemption will not be renewed.

“Our goal for the next year is to help all restaurants, food trucks, and food service operations shift away from plastic to compostable food serviceware,” Hara said.

Seattle is also encouraging businesses to consider not providing straws and to switch to compostable paper straws rather than compostable plastic straws when able. Compostable paper straws are also marine biodegradable, but compostable plastic straws are not.

The city of Seattle said the law does allow businesses to provide plastic bendable straws to disabled persons who may require them.

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