Alder Syed Abbas proposed a city ordinance that would prohibit restaurants from giving out plastic straws unless a customer asks for one. This ban could take effect as soon as November, according to a Channel 3000 article.
The proposed ordinance is scheduled to go before the sustainability committee at the end of October before it goes to the full council, according to another Channel 3000 article.
The ordinance would allow restaurants to give out plastic straws to any customer who requests one, but if a restaurant continued to hand out plastic straws to all customers they could be fined.
The proposal is part of a movement to make Madison a more sustainable city, but the Disability Rights Commission is against the ordinance in its current form, according to Channel 3000.
Disability Rights Commission Chair Bella Sobah said for many people, a plastic straw is not needed, but for some people with disabilities, straws are necessary for drinking.
“People with disabilities have several barriers being in the community,” Sobah said in the article. “This would end up being another one.”
After voting to not support the ordinance in its current form, the commission recommended that the Common Council send a final draft of the ordinance back to the commission so that they could have a re-vote, according to Channel 3000.
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Under the ordinance, restaurants would be allowed to have plastic straws out and available to grab, or use alternatives such as plant-based, paper or metal straws. Restaurants would also be able to give plastic straws to drive-thru and takeout customers without request.
The fine for giving out a plastic straw without a customer request would be $100 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $750 for the third and all offenses after. The specific price of the fines may change in the final version as the ordinance is still being debated.
Abbas spoke about the ordinance in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal.
“[Being more sustainable is] the direction eventually that City Council wants to go into — creating more sustainable policies, which help the environment and the community at the same time.” Abbas said, “You have to start from somewhere, right?”
Plastic straws are single-use items and are also very hard to recycle. Straws are often too small for many recycling machines to process and this leads to straws ending up in landfills or as litter, according to an article by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Washington D.C. and Seattle have already banned plastic straws and many businesses in the Madison area have stopped using them or are phasing them out.
Before a final decision is made later this fall, Abbas hopes to continue to work with the Disabilities Rights Commission and others within the city council to find a version of the bill that limits plastic straw use while still meeting the needs of the community.