Plastic straw ban approved in Port Townsend

Council OKs action to go into effect next January

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council unanimously approved a ban on single-use plastic straws and stirrers beginning next year.

The ordinance was approved during the council’s Monday night meeting and will go into effect Jan. 1.

The ban is effective only within Port Townsend city limits; no such ban has been approved by the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.

Food service businesses will not be permitted to provide single-use or commercially compostable plastic straws or stirrers to customers.

Instead, they will have to provide paper, biodegradable or reusable straws, according to the city ordinance.

The ban does not apply to customers who have medical or physical conditions that make the other options unsuitable, according to the policy.

Bulk sales in retail stores and use in medical and dental facilities still will be allowed.

Conversations regarding the ban began in December, when the Port Townsend High School Students for Sustainability approached the council with the proposal of adopting a plastic straw ban.

At that meeting, the students presented a petition to the council along with information they had gathered from visiting and discussing options with local businesses, many of which “expressed support for banning single-use plastic straws and had already switched to straws made of other materials,” council documents said.

The Students for Sustainability then presented their ideas for a permanent straw ban ordinance to the City Council in March and had identified potential issues, such as some people who would need plastic straws, the documents said.

The group is excited to see the ban approved.

“After working on the single-use plastic straw ban for just over a year, we are beyond excited to see it finally pass,” said co-presidents Melanie Bakin and Sarah Marx in an email Tuesday.

“We hope this is another step towards making Port Townsend a more sustainable town, and towards showing the community what a difference students can make.”

The “ordinance recognizes that certain people require straws, and so it excludes grocery stores and the [Jefferson Healthcare] hospital from the single-use straw ban,” the documents said.

“Second, it acknowledges that businesses and individuals will need time to prepare for the implementation of the single-use plastic straw ban; thus, it includes a period of education and a graduated penalty schedule once the ban is in place.”

A violation of the ordinance would be considered a Class 1 civil infraction, and the first violation could allow the city to fine a business $100. Upon a second violation within two years of the first, the fine would rise to $250, according to the policy.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.

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