The Oregon city's recently passed law leaves wiggle room for those with healthcare conditions.

By Mike Pomranz
December 10, 2018
Image Source/Getty Images

Who hasn't ordered French fries to go and watched as the guy behind the counter blindly reached into a tub of ketchup packets, grabbed as many as physically possible, and tossed a near lifetime supply into the bag. Back in the ‘90s, we called that amazing customer service! Today, we call it waste (as we probably should have all along). Plenty of places have been looking to reduce this kind of plastic waste — enacting things like increasingly-popular plastic straw bans. And last week, Portland, Oregon, passed a simple solution to cut the waste of single-use plastics: Restaurants will be required to ask if customers need these items before providing them, otherwise the businesses can face potential fines.

The new rules, which will take effect on July 1 of next year, will apply to plastic straws, stirrers, utensils, and condiment packaging both when dining in and ordering out — as well as at places like food carts and other dining facilities like school, hospital and work cafeterias. Establishments which fail to follow the policy will receive a warning at first, followed by fines in the $100 to $500 range depending on the number of infractions, according to Nation's Restaurant News. Fines are reportedly intended as a "last resort" for the most brazen offenders.

The city hopes that this "by request/ask first" policy strikes a fair balance between appeasing the "#DitchTheStraw" crowd and also allowing plenty of wiggle room, especially for those who may really need straws for healthcare situations. "Besides overwhelming our landfills, plastic straws and other single-use disposables affect the health of humans and animal communities," Mayor Ted Wheeler said in announcing the decision. "Over 660 species, including sea turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds, are impacted and in many cases die from ingesting or becoming entangled in the plastic debris. A lot of people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the plastic problem. This is a small but important step in the right direction."

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