BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — One Bay Area city is doubling down on its war on plastic as some Berkeley officials introduce an ordinance that would ban straws that aren’t biodegradable.
City leaders want to get rid of plastic straws to help the environment. Instead they want people to use compostable straws. They look like plastic, but are corn based and melt when put in hot water.
The plastic straw ban would follow the city’s previous moves to ban plastic bags and tax soda.
Three city councilmembers co-sponsored the ordinance to ban all plastic straws this week.
“We do need to change our habits. The habits we have are destroying our planet,” said Berkeley Councilwoman Sophie Hahn.
Councilman Ben Bartlett agreed. “It’s good for the fish in which we eat and it’s good for the children who are exposed to BPE’s in the plastic,” said Bartlett.
Environmentalists estimate Americans toss out 500 million straws each day. Some of them end up in our waterways. One YouTube video shows researchers pulling out a straw from a sea turtle’s nose.
“The trouble with plastic is it’s not biodegradable. It gets into oceans and kills animals,” said Berkeley resident Nancy Schimmel.
The city wants juice bars and cafes to provide paper or bamboo straws and encourage people to bring their own reusable straws.
“I don’t think it’s realistic at all. I personally would not remember to bring that,” said Cal student Shawn Patel.
“It sounds a little messy, a drippy straw,” said Schimmel.
Some Berkeley businesses like Juice Appeal already use compostable straws.
But other business owners say these straws are less cost effective. For example, a plastic straw is only a penny, but a paper straw is 8 times more expensive.
“There are alternatives. The cost should be passed on to consumers. It’s the actual cost of your drink,” said Hahn.
“This would just end up hurting businesses rather than making a big environmental impact,” said Cal student Patel.
People KPIX 5 spoke with had mixed feelings about the proposed ban. People don’t want to pay more for drinks and they don’t want to have to carry a metal straw around.
But Berkeley leaders believe they will pass this ban early next year.
They will doubtless be a lot of discussion on how to make the ban work, because compostable straws aren’t strong enough for smoothies and paper straws will sag if you take too long to drink.
If passed, Berkeley would be the first city in California to ban plastic straws.