New requirements banning businesses or organizations in Washington, D.C., from providing single-use plastic straws and stirrers when selling food or beverages took effect Jan. 1.
The Department of Energy and Environment began reviewing businesses for compliance and issuing unofficial warnings at the start of the month. After July 1, businesses found providing plastic straws and stirrers will be sent a notification of their first violation. Subsequent violations will incur fines between $100 and $800.
The ban is part of the District’s long term goal to reduce the amount of landfill waste by 80 percent, according to Zachary Rybarczyk, an environmental protection specialist with the DOEE.
“We hope to take a small step towards achieving the District’s overall waste reduction goals, while also educating residents, businesses, and organizations about our reliance on single-use plastics and the growing number of alternatives available on the market,” Rybarczyk wrote in an email to The Hoya.
In compliance with the new regulations, Students of Georgetown, Inc., commonly known as The Corp, is set to replace one-use plastic straws with compostable plastic straws at its seven storefronts.
The organization began to work with suppliers to implement the change following the city’s announcement of the ban last year, according to Alex Gong (SFS ’20), CEO and president of The Corp.
The straw ban supplements the Corp’s ongoing efforts toward becoming more ecologically sustainable, which include only providing plastic lids to customers upon request at select locations and offering discounts to customers who use their own reusable containers, according to Gong.
“Currently, all of our hot cups are compostable and our iced drink cups are recyclable,” Gong wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We’ve historically been ahead of the curve in using sustainable materials and are happy to hear that the D.C. government is requiring all businesses to adopt similar practices.”
Under the Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act of 2014, District businesses and organizations are required to only use food service ware specified in the Mayor’s “List of Recyclables and Compostables.” In October, the Mayor’s List was updated to specifically exclude single-use plastic straws and stirrers from the list of allowable items. The new policy went into effect Jan. 1.
The updated regulation makes D.C. the second major U.S. city to pass a plastic straw ban after Seattle’s restriction went into effect last July.
The DOEE suggests businesses replace plastic straws and stirrers with straws made of materials such as paper or plant fiber.
To offset the cost of replacing plastic straws with straws made of more expensive material, the department recommends that businesses only provide compliant straws to customers upon request.
In its recommendation, the DOEE also suggests that businesses can offset expenses by passing some or all of the additional cost onto their customers.
Local businesses in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, including Farmers Fishers Bakers and Sweetgreen, had already chosen to eliminate their usage of plastic straws as part of the “Our Last Straw” initiative, a coalition of restaurants and businesses seeking to eliminate single-use plastic straws that launched in 2018.
The Farmers restaurants switched to paper straws in 2016 and added hay straws in 2018 after using single-use compostable drinking straws from 2008 to 2016, according to Julie Sharkey, director of marketing operations for Farmers Restaurant Group.
“Farmers Restaurant Group has always held sustainability and thoughtful sourcing at the forefront of our mission and goals,” Sharkey wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The hospitality industry is one of the largest purveyors of single-use plastic straws, and so it was a natural next step to spearhead this cause.”