Should Milwaukee Ban Plastic Straws?
Some alderman seem in favor. It's one of the few single-use plastics the city could ban.
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?”
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.
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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