Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Should Milwaukee Ban Plastic Straws?

Some alderman seem in favor. It's one of the few single-use plastics the city could ban.

By - Sep 11th, 2019 04:12 pm
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Drinking straws.

Drinking straws.

The City of Milwaukee could ban the distribution of single-use plastic straws in an effort to reduce waste.

As part of a broader, annual discussion on the state of the city’s recycling program, the Common Council’s Public Works Committee weighed the merits of banning the free distribution of plastic straws.

Unlike plastic bags, which the city can’t ban or restrict as a result of a 2016 prohibition of such local ordinances passed by Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature, the city can regulate straws.

The 2016 law restricts municipalities from regulating the commercial use of plastic bags or other “auxiliary containers” such a cups, bottles or other packaging.

“Straws are just an example of a global problem,” said Alderman Michael Murphy while acknowledging banning them wouldn’t entirely solve the issue. “I just worry in two generations people are going to look back and go ‘gosh, what were they thinking?'”

The veteran council member studied geology at UW-Milwaukee and noted that one of his professors regularly visits Antarctica where microplastics have now been found. They’ve also been found in beers brewed with Great Lakes water.

“What’s the administration’s position?” asked the committee chair, Alderman Robert Bauman. “Are they going to show leadership on this or does it have to come from the council as usual?”

Department of Public Works city sanitation services manager Rick Meyers said he couldn’t answer that.

Mayor Tom Barrett‘s communications director said the mayor would support a ban when Urban Milwaukee contacted the office.

Alderman Nik Kovac, who also speculated about whether a phased-in fee would be more effective, asked about Americans with Disabilities considerations, noting that some people rely on straws in order to drink.

“Generally where I’ve seen it they use paper straws instead,” said Meyers.

Single-use, plastic straws have never been available at Fiserv Forum since it opened in 2018. Miller Park stopped offering them this year, instead offering paper straws on request.

A host of area restaurants have swapped plastic for paper as well, with La Merenda, Engine Company No. 3, LuLu Cafe and the HiHat tavern among the first.

The City of Madison is considering plastic straw restrictions that would require a customer to first ask for a straw.

Seattle was the first city to institute a plastic straw ban. It went into effect in July 2018. California has restricted their use, San Francisco has banned them outright and Starbucks is working to phase them out.

“We know that single-use plastics are bad and we know that banning plastic straws isn’t going to solve the issue, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Ald. Cavalier Johnson.

According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, 175 billion straws are used and discarded every year in the United States. And an estimated 8.3 billion straws dot sandy ocean beaches across the world.

But another study estimates that straws represent only 2,000 tons of the 9 million tons of plastic that ends up in the oceans annually, despite representing four percent of all the waste by item.

Regardless of how big of a problem it is, it’s become a partisan issue.

President Donald Trump‘s campaign sold Trump-branded straws after the issue gained national attention, with Trump’s campaign manager announcing the sale of $200,000 worth of the straws in just a few days.

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Categories: City Hall

4 thoughts on “City Hall: Should Milwaukee Ban Plastic Straws?”

  1. Nicholas La Joie says:

    Ban straws— but then, more importantly, ban Republicans.

  2. Lee Bitts says:

    So, my question is: What is the appropriate way to discard plastic straws? Tell me how to do that and I will do it! Thank you.

  3. Talhara says:

    Ban them, get rid of the republicans, then ban plastic bags!

  4. Barbara Richards says:

    Definitely (and defiantly) ban plastic straws. There are paper or metal reusables available. STRAWS ARE THE “TIP OF THE ICEBERG” of plastic waste. Perhaps when life goes on as it did when smoking was banned in bars the Nay sayers will accept the need to ban all single use plastic.

    An appropriate way to dispose of plastic straws? Once the straw is in your hands you can hope is goes to the landfill…but it will be there forever. There is no “Away” but there is a “Forever”.

    Just say NO!

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