Washington, D.C.’s Plastic Straw Ban Now in Effect

Washington, D.C. has become the latest in a growing number of cities to outlaw plastic straws. The ban’s grace period ban officially ended on July 1st, and follows a 9-year-old nickel bag tax, and a 3-year-old ban on plastic food containers. Businesses in the District will now have to switch from plastic straws to biodegradable alternatives such as paper straws, or face fines ranging from $100 to $800.

This plastic straw ban took effect over a three-step process. The first step came when the ban became law on October 1st last year, whereby the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) gave a January 1st deadline for businesses to get rid of plastic straws. The second step took place on January 1st, when the DOEE issued warnings for noncompliance. The third and final process began on July 1st, when DC began issuing fines for violations.

So far, D.C. 's plastic straw ban seems to succeed in accommodating people with disabilities.

In order to enforce this ban, the DOEE will conduct inspections at businesses throughout the District; the DOEE conducted similar inspections following the District’s polystyrene takeout container ban. These compliance inspections will occur throughout the year. Customers can tip the DOEE about businesses regularly serving plastic straws instead of legal alternatives like paper straws.

DC will however allow restaurants to carry a limited supply of plastic straws, in order to serve disabled customers who still need to use these straws. These plastic straws will be handed out only by request, in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). So far, D.C. ‘s plastic straw ban seems to succeed in accommodating people with disabilities.

Washington D.C’s single-use plastic straw ban has so far been met with positive feedback from local businesses

Washington, D.C. has a long history with the drinks straw. It was in the District where in 1888, Marvin Chester Stone received the first patent for a paper straw design, and made the product locally. Over time however, Stone’s biodegradable paper straw became the bendable plastic straw that cannot decompose.

Washington D.C’s single-use plastic straw ban has so far been met with positive feedback from local businesses, with a few expressing minor annoyance. In fact, a number of D.C. businesses phased out plastic straws before the ban went into effect. The co-owners of the restaurant Equinox switched to metal straws two years ago, and the Greek chain Cava has used paper straws since 2018.

Washington, D.C.’s plastic straw ban follows cities such as Monmouth Beach, New Jersey; Miami Beach, Florida; Seattle, Washington, and a number of coastal cities in California and Florida. A plastic straw ban in the U.S.’s capital city carries the powerful message that the fight against plastic waste is a thoroughly American fight. 

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