By Dan Novak
TAKOMA PARK, Md.– The Takoma Park City Council discussed a draft ordinance prohibiting retail businesses from serving beverages with plastic straws or plastic stirrers at its Wednesday meeting.
The ordinance is expected to pass, though city officials emphasized that educating business owners in Takoma Park about the plastic straw ban will be instrumental to its success.
Plastic straws greatly contribute to non-biodegradable waste in landfills and oceans, and about 500 million straws in the U.S. are used and disposed of daily, according to Eco-Cycle, a non-profit recycling organization.
The city banned single-use plastic bags in 2016 and mounted a strong effort to educate business leaders regarding compliance, according to City Manager Suzanne Ludlow.
“There will need to be a similar campaign” for the ordinance on plastic straws and stirrers, she said.
Under the provision, businesses may do away with straws completely, or opt to provide straws made with a material other than plastic, such as paper.
Ludlow said she altered language of the provision to make clear that restaurants may provide flexible plastic straws for those who request them, but are not required to do so.
Some people with disabilities may require flexible plastic straws for drinking, she said, but there is no federal law under the Americans With Disabilities Act stipulating that those kinds of straws be available.
The proposed ordinance contains 180-day grace period to allow businesses to phase out plastic straws and stirrers before it goes into effect.
Council Member Cindy Dyballa of Ward 2 said it could be more challenging for businesses with narrow profit margins to eliminate plastic straws, which she said are less expensive than straws made with other materials.
“I’m hoping with an adequate transition we’ll be able to work that out,” she said.
Lorie Hill, member of the advocacy group The Last Plastic Straw Takoma Park, said she has been meeting with Takoma Park restaurants and businesses to educate them on the environmental costs of plastics and encourage them to switch to paper straws. Hill has also been trying to gather information on how much money restaurants spend per month on plastic straws.
“The city council was worried it was going to cost them more money if they switched to paper,” she said.
Hill said if it we’re up to her, she would ban all plastic in Takoma Park, but “we didn’t want to have that much of a burden on businesses because some of them are still complaining about the plastic bag ban.”
In the only voting measure of the evening, the Council unanimously approved minor amendments to the fiscal year 2019 budget. The Council also discussed its top priorities for the upcoming fiscal year 2020 budget, which Deputy City Manager Jason Damweber said might require raising taxes or cutting programs.
“We all think this is going to be a challenging budget year.”
A public hearing about the draft ordinance is set to take place in two weeks.