Portland approves restrictions on plastic straws, utensils ablokhin/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Portland, Ore. approves restrictions on plastic straws, utensils

Restaurants face up to $500 in fines when law goes into effect next summer

Starting next summer, plastic straws and silverware will only be available upon request in Portland, according to a law approved this week by the city.

Portland’s ordinance, which goes into effect July 1, also applies to condiment packaging. In dine-in restaurants, single-use plastics such as straws and silverware will be available by request only. In “takeout and delivery situations,” plastic service ware will only be provided after the customer has been asked and confirms they want a plastic straw or utensil, the law states.

Restaurants violating the law for the first time will get a warning. Fines will begin on subsequent violations and will range from $100 to $500, depending on the number of citations issued in the same calendar year, according to the city.

Portland, one of the most progressive cities in America, joins a handful of cities and states across the U.S. that are acting to curb the use of single-use plastics in the foodservice industry. Starting Jan. 1, full-service restaurants in California will be barred from automatically providing plastic straws.

California will be the first state to enact straw restrictions, though it is limited to sit-down operations. Other cities around the U.S. that have approved restrictions or are in the process of curbing single-use plastics include New York; Seattle; San Francisco; Berkeley, Calif.; Malibu, Calif.; and Boulder, Colo.

Environmentally conscious restaurants, as well as chains looking to stay ahead of the anti-straw movement, are also enacting policies to reduce the use of plastics.

Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, or LEYE, and Eataly said this summer they would voluntarily move away from using plastic straws.

Earlier this year, McDonald’s said it was working to find a more sustainable solution for plastic straws globally. In the summer, Seattle-based Starbucks said it would eliminate more than 1 billion plastic straws per year from its stores worldwide by 2020.  Over the summer, roughly 8,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada began using strawless lids on certain drinks such as nitro cold brew beverages.

To comply with Seattle’s July 1 straw ban, Starbucks stores in the city began offering customers new compostable straws, splash sticks and cutlery.

Over the years, Portland has been a leader in waste reduction.

Since 1990, Portland has restricted the use of polystyrene foam for commercially prepared foods. In 2011, Portland restricted the use of single-use plastic bags from retail locations. 

In a 2016 study, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said 4 percent of Portland's landfill-bound waste, by weight, comes from plastic packaging. That’s roughly 38 million pounds of plastic or 60 pounds of plastic per person, per year, according to the report.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @fastfoodmaven

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