Thursday morning, members of the Public Safety & Health Committee met to discuss a proposed ban on single-use plastic straws in Milwaukee bars and restaurants. The proposed ordinance states that, effective April 14, 2020, no food establishment or alcohol beverage establishment “may provide any customer with a single-use, plastic straw, where ‘single-use’ means a product that is designed and intended to be used only once and is generally recognized by the public as an item that is to be discarded after one use.” Despite objections from committee chair Ald. Bob Donovan, the ordinance was passed. Approval is still needed by the full Common Council. Mayor Tom Barrett has indicated he will support the ban.

Ald. Cavalier Johnson made Thursday’s presentation. He noted that Miller Park has already banned plastic straws, and that Fiserv Forum has never allowed them. Aldi and Outpost, he added, have agreed to phase out plastic straws by 2025. Places like Transfer Pizzeria Cafe and Lulu Cafe, he continued, already use paper straws.

The proposed ban would also apply to fast food franchises. Johnson explained that McDonald’s, for instance, would be given adequate time to deplete their on-hand supply of plastic straws.

And yet the proposed ban wouldn’t be an outright ban. Customers could still request plastic straws, either for accessibility needs or just for the hell of it. Exemptions would also be made for “prepackaged individual serving beverages where a small plastic straw is included in the packaging,” as well as customers receiving “a viscous beverage, such as a milkshake or smoothie, that requires a large, durable straw, for which a non-plastic straw would not be suitable.”

Ald. Scott Spiker clarified that the ordinance would simply “change the default” for straws in bars and restaurants. Johnson said the ordinance would “strike an appropriate balance” between the environment, disability rights, and businesses.

Donovan was the lone dissenter of the ban, suggesting that such matters be left up to individual businesses. “I’m a little concerned about government coming down and issuing bans on this and that,” he said.

The ordinance is sponsored by Johnson, Ald. Bob Bauman, Ald. Nik Kovac, and Ald. Nikiya Dodd. The full Common Council could take up the matter at their next scheduled meeting, November 26.

Urban Milwaukee notes that “Seattle was the first city to institute a plastic straw ban. It went into effect in July 2018. California has restricted their use, San Francisco has banned them outright and Starbucks is working to phase them out.” Madison is also considering a ban.

Also, according to Urban Milwaukee:

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, 175 billion straws are used and discarded every year in the United States. And an estimated 8.3 billion straws dot sandy ocean beaches across the world.

But another study estimates that straws represent only 2,000 tons of the 9 million tons of plastic that ends up in the oceans annually, despite representing four percent of all the waste by item.

Here’s the full Milwaukee ordinance:

Title
A substitute ordinance relating to the distribution of single-use, plastic beverage straws by food establishments and alcohol beverage establishments.

Analysis
This ordinance prohibits food establishments and alcohol beverage establishments from providing single-use, plastic beverage straws to customers. Single-use means a product that is designed and intended to be used only once and is generally recognized by the public as an item that is to be discarded after one use.

Body
The Mayor and Common Council of the City of Milwaukee do ordain as follows:

Part 1. Section 68-32 of the code is created to read:

68-32. Single-Use, Plastic Straws. 1. PROHIBITED. Effective April 14, 2020, no food establishment may provide any customer with a single-use, plastic straw, where “single-use” means a product that is designed and intended to be used only once and is generally recognized by the public as an item that is to be discarded after one use.

2. EXEMPTIONS. Subsection 1 shall not prohibit:
a. Prepackaged individual serving beverages where a small plastic straw is included in the packaging.
b. The provision of a plastic beverage straw to a customer upon request of a plastic beverage straw by the customer.
c. The provision of a plastic beverage straw to a customer receiving a viscous beverage, such as a milkshake or smoothie, that requires a large, durable straw, for which a non-plastic straw would not be suitable.
d. The provision of any other approved compostable straw as determined by the environmental sustainability director. The environmental sustainability director shall maintain a list of acceptable compostable straws.

Part 2. Section 90-30.5 of the code is created to read:

90-30.5. Single-Use, Plastic Straws Prohibited. 1. PROHIBITED. Effective April 14, 2020, no alcohol beverage establishment may provide any customer with a single-use, plastic straw, where “single-use” means a product that is designed and intended to be used only once and is generally recognized by the public as an item that is to be discarded after one use.

2. EXEMPTIONS. Subsection 1 shall not prohibit:
a. Prepackaged individual serving beverages where a small plastic straw is included in the packaging.
b. The provision of a plastic beverage straw to a customer upon request of a plastic beverage straw by the customer.
c. The provision of a plastic beverage straw to a customer receiving a viscous beverage, such as a milkshake or smoothie, that requires a large, durable straw, for which a non-plastic straw would not be suitable.
d. The provision of any other approved compostable straw as determined by the environmental sustainability director. The environmental sustainability director shall maintain a list of acceptable compostable straws.

 

About The Author

Matt Wild
Co-Founder and Editor

Matt Wild weighs between 140 and 145 pounds. He lives on Milwaukee's east side.

X