Single-use straw ban in Port Townsend gets preliminary nod

City Council to have second reading

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend City Council has unanimously approved on first reading a ban of the sale and use of plastic straws or stirrers, except for exempt locations, an action urged by a student group.

The council approved the measure Monday evening. Final approval will be considered upon a second reading of the proposed ordinance.

The ban, if approved on its second reading, would go into effect Jan. 1 and would ban food service industries from providing single-use plastic straws and stirrers to customers in favor of other alternatives such as paper, biodegradable or reusable straws.

The ban would not apply to grocery stores or any bulk sale retail stores, medical and dental facilities, or during local- or state-declared emergencies, such as Gov. Jay Inslee’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order this spring.

Violations of the ban would be met with gradual fines, $100 for the first violation and $250 for a second violation within two years.

A business could apply for an exemption under the circumstances of undue hardship, such as if the alternatives to plastic straws would cause significant economic hardship to the business.

These exemptions would be available for one year, with the option to be extended as long as the business can factually prove that compliance with the ban would bring undue hardship to the business.

“I am happy to see that there could be a business that found it difficult, financially or otherwise, who could make a request to the city manager or the council to raise that requirement of the straws,” Council member Pam Adams said.

In December, students from the Port Townsend High School group Students for Sustainability proposed that the City of Port Townsend implement a single-use plastic straw and stirrer ban as the items have been proven to be detrimental to the environment.

The students compiled a petition with hundreds of signatures and met and discussed alternatives with many of the local businesses, some of which had already begun not using plastic straws or stirrers.

The students presented their findings, research and ideas to the City Council during a work session in March.

Following that work session, the students, along with City Attorney Heidi Greenwood, drafted the ordinance for the council to consider.

City Council members complimented the students on their work in drafting a thorough ordinance that hit on many variables.

“I also think that the students have thought really about every possibility,” Adams said. “I’m so impressed and very much in favor of this ordinance.”

“It is no easy feat to write an ordinance, and you have done an incredibly good and thoughtful job, and even did the backtracking to see where it might fail, and who do we have to consider,” Council member Monica MickHager said.

“I just really want to applaud you for your work.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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