Port Townsend City Council to discuss ban on plastic straws

School club has examples from other jurisdictions

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council will discuss a proposed ban on single-use plastic straws as part of a workshop.

The request, made by the Students for Sustainability club from Port Townsend High School, will be one of two topics when the council meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

No action will be taken at the meeting, which will be in council chambers at 540 Water St. in downtown Port Townsend.

The proposed offshore outfall project for the city’s wastewater treatment plant near North Beach County Park also will be discussed.

The Students for Sustainability proposed the ban during a presentation before the council on Dec. 2, and many council members were in favor of the concept, which was added to the city’s work plan during a January retreat.

“City Council expressed a desire to discuss a potential single-use straw ban in the spring to coincide with Earth Day celebrations,” the council’s agenda bill said.

Former Mayor Deborah Stinson encouraged the students in December to continue to work on it and asked them to provide resolutions from other cities to potentially use as an example.

“This helps us tremendously in helping us move forward with this,” Stinson said.

Movements to ban the use of plastic straws have gained momentum nationwide. Single-use plastic straws are so small they often aren’t recycled and end up polluting oceans and harming wildlife, advocates of the bans have said.

The students, led by co-presidents Melanie Bakin and Sarah Marx, presented alternative products such as straws made of paper, bamboo or reusable metal, and their local research found some businesses — Elevated Ice Cream, The Rose Theatre, Tommyknocker’s Cornish Pasty, the Manresa Castle and Lehani’s Deli and Coffee — already have taken steps to reduce plastic waste.

“Many of the businesses expressed support for banning single-use plastic straws and had already switched to straws made of other materials,” city documents said.

Oscar Levine, a co-vice president of the club along with Lochlan Krupa, said the students had 570 signatures from eligible registered voters on a petition in town to ban plastic straws.

They also had more than 700 people sign an online petition, although they were working in December to verify where people lived and whether those who signed were older than 18.

The city’s agenda bill said the students’ research — they have provided copies of ordinances from the cities of Edmonds and Del Mar, Calif. — has identified several issues and areas of concern.

“First, the students acknowledge that certain people require straws and so they propose excluding grocery stores and the hospital from the single-use ban,” the agenda bill said. “Second, businesses and individuals will need time to prepare for the implementation of the single-use plastic straw ban, and so they propose a period of education and a graduated penalty schedule once the ban is in place.”

The students recognize that straws made of other materials also may contribute to pollution, so they propose any straw only be provided when a customer asks for one, according to city documents.

“The Students for Sustainability acknowledge that single plastic straws are a small fraction of the plastic waste in the oceans and landfills,” the agenda bill said. “But a ban on single-use plastic straws is a start to solving the larger problem of plastic pollution.”

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Jefferson County Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 6, or at [email protected].

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