Oakland, CA, Moves to Limit Single-Use Plastic

The use of plastic straws in restaurants, bars, and cafes throughout Oakland, Calif., is set to see changes. The Oakland City Council recently voted unanimously to pass a law restricting access to single-use plastic straws, KTVU reported.

The new ordinance means that straws will only be available to customers upon request.

“Plastic straws pose a long-term threat to marine life, waterways and natural habitats, such as Lake Merritt, and eventually local residents by way of food consumption and collateral environmental effects,” said City Councilman Abel Guillen, author of the ordinance, in a statement.

“There are easy, convenient and economical ways around this environmental health problem, like ‘straw on request only’ rules, and Oakland should be a leader in this effort.”

The move joins other efforts by the council to reduce waste by eliminating single-use containers and plastic utensils. The plastic straw ordinance includes a provision that instructs City Administrator Sabrina Landreth to return to the council in six months with draft legislation that covers plastic containers, utensils, and other food-related disposable items.

Guillen believes the ruling “will be good for the community, good for the environment and good for business.”

He explained: “It’s a sensible policy that may actually help reduce costs and save time for businesses and customers will welcome the positive ecological benefits.” 

KTVU pointed out that according to the National Park Service, Americans throw away roughly 500 million plastic straws every day. Guillen commented that these items can take 200 years to decompose.

A recent campaign by nonprofit organization Sea Shepherd launched to highlight awareness of the “overwhelming” amount of plastic pollution in our oceans. The CEO of the marine conservation organization, Captain Alex Cornelissen, said that plastic pollution is “invading the oceans on an unprecedented scale” and is “wiping out ocean wildlife.”

The environmental impact of these products is increasingly on the mind of consumers. A February poll found that 85 percent of consumers were “very concerned” or “fairly concerned” about the issue of plastic. In contrast, just three percent of participants were “not at all concerned.”

Other data uncovered that nine out of ten people in the UK want plastic-free aisles to be introduced in supermarkets.

Government efforts to address these concerns are in the works. Plastic straws were recently banned in all restaurants across England, while Taiwan previously made a similar promise regarding all single-use plastics.