Seattle Becomes First Major U.S. City To Ban Plastic Straws And Utensils

Want to sip your soda through a straw in Seattle? As of Sunday, restaurants in Washington state's largest city can only provide compostable or recyclable straws, not straws made of single-use plastic. The same thing with utensils: If you need a spork with your quick-food lunch in Washington's Emerald City, it has to be one that can be composted or recycled.

"Plastic pollution is surpassing crisis levels in the world's oceans, and I'm proud Seattle is leading the way and setting an example for the nation by enacting a plastic straw ban," Seattle Public Utilities General Manager Mami Hara said in a statement.

This ban is hardly a surprise to city residents. The city first adopted an ordinance back in 2008 to require that one-time-use food service items be recyclable or compostable. That affected food packaging and other items starting in 2010, but due to a lack of compostable alternatives for straws and utensils, they'd been exempted until now. Those who need flexible plastic straws for medical reasons can still get them.

The rule affects restaurants, delis, coffee shops, food trucks, cafeterias, and grocery stores, or pretty much any food provider other than your mom. Business that don't comply can be fined up to $250.

Eco-conscious Seattle may be the first major U.S. city to enforce the rules on both plastic straws and utensils, but it isn't alone. A New York City councilman is hoping to take the straw ban to the Big Apple, and governments from the U.K. to Taiwan also are considering or implementing bans.

Straws are far from the only controversial item in the food world. Check out this slideshow of 14 foods banned around the world.