“One of my messages is you don’t have to start an environmental project, but as long as you’re gettinginvolved in something that makes you passionate, that’s good,” he says.
BY SARAH GIBBENS PUBLISHED JULY 23, 2018How Do Plastic Straw Bans Work?Major corporations like Starbucks, Bacardi Rum, Bon Appétit Management Company, Marriott hotels, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines have publicly announced that they will phase out plastic straws in the coming years. And they aren't the only ones.Seattle recently became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws. Council members in major cities like D.C. and New York have proposed bans, and smaller municipalities like Miami Beach and Malibu have at least partially implemented bans.Though just a small fraction of all plastic pollution, straws have become a symbol of waste to rally behind and a feasible way for consumers to feel like they're making a difference. But how do such bans actually go from a pipe dream to a reality on the ground? And what impact will they have?Who Advocates for Straw Bans?In Seattle, the movement to ban straws first gained traction in 2008, when the city passed an ordinance requiring one-time-use food items be recyclable or compostable. The ordinance was updated in 2010, and by July of this year, plastic straws and utensils were prohibited from use.“The basis of that was grassroots energy,” says Sego Jackson, a strategic advisor for waste prevention and product stewardship at Seattle Public Utilities. “It was community groups coming to the council.”Straw bans have also been implemented from a more top-down approach. The Bon Appétit Management Company, a large food service provider with 1,000 cafes at places like colleges, museums, and workplaces, announced their own plans to phase out plastic straws last May.Maisie Ganzler, the chief strategy and brand officer for Bon Appétit, says the decision was largely spurred by the company's CEO Fedele Bauccio.“When I heard the stats and learned how much damage is being done by straws—a product of convenience—my gut reaction was, we have to change this,” Bauccio said in a press release.After what Ganzler says was just a few months of consideration, the company announced a ban they expect will take just over a year to implement.Environmental advocacy groups have also stepped in to demand straw bans. Lonely Whale, co-founded by actor Adrian Grenier, is one such organization, but rather than trying to sway potential voters, they focus on convincing businesses to lead the way.“I think, philosophically, markets need to lead the way,” says Dune Ives, the group's executive director. “Policy helps codify what the market wants.”How Hard Is it to Find Alternatives?In Seattle, city officials initially struggled to find viable alternatives to plastic for straws when bans were first proposed 10 years ago. It was similarly a challenge to find alternatives for other single-use items.