SOUNDBITE SERVICES: SEATTLE - To rid the world's oceans of plastic pollution, environmental advocates are hoping Seattle's move to ban plastic straws will send ripple effects across the nation and the world.
This week, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban single-use plastic straws, forcing some 5,000 restaurants to offer reusable or compostable utensils, straws and cocktail picks. Organizers behind the "Strawless in Seattle" campaign were expecting to have only the month of September designated as "strawless."
Campaign co-creator Emy Kane said the strategy was to build on the success of a small win. However, after the city's self-imposed ban, they want to keep the momentum going.
"So, once you address the plastic straw, what's next? Is it the plastic bags that oysters come in? Is it the single-use plastic cups? So for us, that was really kind of our first starting point," said Kane, digital director for Lonely Whale, a nonprofit business incubator that advocates for healthier oceans.
Seattle's ban is part of a 2008 ordinance that requires restaurants and other food-service businesses to find recyclable or compostable alternatives to disposable plastic products. The Seattle Restaurant Alliance, an industry trade group, said it has been preparing for the change for more than a year, and its members plan to comply.
Businesses that don't comply may face a fine of up to $250, but Seattle officials have said they'll work with businesses to help make the changes. Kane said she's excited to see the surge in interest for banning plastic straws, which is part of the larger goal of starting a global conversation.
"Since we launched our campaign in September, there have been other proposed bans that have come into play, including the city of Malibu (Calif.)," she said. "There is ongoing legislation in the city of New York, which is wonderful - we recently supported that bill, that's been proposed by Councilman (Rafael) Espinal - in addition to San Francisco."
According to some estimates, Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day, while some parts of the oceans contain more plastic than fish.
More information on the strawless campaign is online at lonelywhale.org.