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TAKOMA PARK — A local environmental group is aiming to reduce the use of plastic straws in the city after urging the Takoma Park City Council to consider an ordinance on the issue.
A local group called “The Last Plastic Straw – Takoma Park,” briefed the council on Jan. 16, calling for a phase out of plastic straws to “build awareness among restaurants and patrons about the environmental impact of plastic straws.”
“It’s time for a paradigm shift to reusables,” said Lori Hill, the group’s founder and local environmental activist. “Reusable cups, cutlery, but we haven’t reached the tipping point where the world fully embraces reusables.”
The effort comes at a time when United Nations General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa called on the global community to address the increase in plastic waste in the earth’s oceans.
“It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Microplastics are now confirmed in table salt, in fresh water; each person on the planet is believed to have plastic in their bodies,” she said in a statement last month.
Hill explained that her group’s efforts emphasize a reduction in the use of plastic straws rather than a complete ban, adding, “Until we can retrain the world and our Takoma Park community, we need to use disposables that have a low impact on the planet.”
In December 2016, the city banned single-use, point-of-sale plastic bags in retail establishments with a few exceptions, including bulk-food items, the sale of packages of multiple plastic bags for use by the consumer, dry-cleaning and newspaper deliveries.
Hill outlined several steps that restaurants could take to reduce the use of plastic straws, saying they “can be the first to switch from plastic to paper straws.”
These steps include providing straws only upon request and keeping bulk supplies of straws away from consumer accessibility.
She also explained that patrons could “think about” consuming their beverages without the use of a straw or bring their own straws and encourage their favorite restaurants to switch from plastic to paper straws.
According to an online pricing guide from The Last Plastic Straw – Takoma Park, restaurants may purchase stirrers made of bamboo or wood in bulk, starting from $4.40, and straws made from paper, starting from $148.54.
Hill emphasized that a potential ordinance should include an exception for those with “self-identified” disabilities, upon request, and that restaurant staff should fulfill the request without asking additional or “intrusive” questions.
Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart said the council will explore plastic straw restrictions in a future work session.