If all went according to plan, fewer people are drinking sodas in Berkeley after the Californian city last year imposed a tax on sugary beverages—and now, the city council is considering restricting how citizens will be able to suck up sugary and non-sugary beverages alike. Last week, the council put forward a proposal that would ask bars, restaurants, and coffee shops to stop offering up plastic straws, swapping them for environmentally-friendly bamboo and paper varieties.
According to the proposal, the council is asking two commissions—the city's Community Environmental Advisory Commission and the Zero Waste Commission—to approach bars, restaurants, and coffee shops, asking their owners, managers, and stakeholders if they're willing to provide compostable or reusable straw alternatives at their establishments.
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The city isn't calling the proposal a ban—at least not yet. As Berkeley City Council member Susan Wengraf points out, "generally speaking, bans aren't the best way to do business—voluntary compliance is." (Note: the soda tax, however, didn't give anyone a choice.)
Instead, the proposal is "a referral for them to explore the possibility of a ban," she says.
The proposal cites that Americans throw out a whopping 500 million plastic straws every day, "littering our beaches and polluting our waterways and oceans." The council argues that, "straws have become ingrained in our culture—most drinks are served with them by default, even though they are unnecessary." Plus, many of these discarded straws are made with polypropylene, and contain BPA, which can cause health problems, the council says.
"Plastic straws might seem like a small factor in comparison to the enormous amounts of waste and plastic dumped in our landfills every day," they say, "but it gives us an idea of how little things can actually make a big difference to our health and to our environment."
The council will meet today at 7 p.m. to discuss the proposal in more depth.