Plastics Bans in the US: Where They Are and How to Comply with Them

Nov 12, 2021

Plastic bans have become a hot topic over the course of the last 5 years. We all know that single-use plastics have a negative effect on our planet, and we are constantly looking for ways to maintain the convenience of single-use products, while also reducing our environmental footprint. Bans have become one of the most common ways of achieving this. By placing strict limits on single-use products made from petroleum-based materials, these bans encourage businesses and consumers to utilize more sustainable alternatives, like reusable shopping bags or bioplastic drinking straws. Throughout the US, a variety of cities and states have enacted some form of plastics bans. But where exactly are these bans located, and how can you make sure that your business is in compliance with the bans in your area?

It’s extremely difficult to find comprehensive databases of single-use plastics legislation. This is mainly due to the fact that these laws and ordinances vary from city to city, county to county, and state to state. This variance has a lot to do with the fact there is currently no federal legislation for single-use plastics. A bill called the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act was originally introduced in 2020 and has continued into 2021. As of March 2021, the Bill was with the Senate for review. However, it can take years for a bill like this to pass at the federal level. Until then, the responsibility for the restriction of single-use plastics falls down the ladder. There are some states that have completely banned certain forms of single-use plastics, mainly plastic bags. These include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. There’s also a long list of other states that have plastic bag bans in process.

But what if there is no legislation at the state level? Well, that’s where it gets complicated. If the state chooses not to regulate single-use plastics, the decisions fall to the cities and counties. This is where you find most of the plastic straw bans; cities like New York City, Charleston, South Carolina, and Miami Beach, Florida all have enacted their own bans on plastic straws and stirrers. And they aren’t the only 3. There are countless cities in Florida and California with straw bans, as well as hundreds more scattered across the country. D.C. is another big haven for straw bans. So how can you know if there is a plastic straw ban that your business needs to be in compliance with? Well, you can check out some of the resources linked in this blog, or, the easiest way is a simple google search. Many of these laws are public knowledge, and you can find the actual language of the ordinance on your local government’s website. Googling phrases like “[city or county] plastic straw ordinance” or “[city or county] single-use plastics ban” are great ways to start your search. You can also navigate to your local government’s website and search for keywords like “straw” or “plastic.”

Now, once you know that there is a single-use plastic straw ban in your city, county, or state, how do you go about complying with that ban? First things first, be sure to read the language of the ordinance carefully. Because there is no standard for these laws, they are all written quite differently. For example, the Charleston ban states that any products that pass ASTM’s D6400 or D6868 test standards and that have a BPI certification are approved for use. However, the State of Washington’s ban covers all straws made from both petroleum and biologically-based polymers, regardless of passing test standards or certifications. New York City’s ban requires that all establishments keep a supply of plastic straws on hand for those that request them. Each of these bans has different approved alternatives, and certain alternatives that are allowed in one may be banned in another. Our point is, read your local legislation, and make sure that you understand what they are expecting of you, as it can be very different in different locations.

Finally, what types of sustainable alternatives are the best for use in an area where there are single-use plastics bans? When it comes to straws, UrthPact’s home compostable straws are absolutely your best option — shameless plug, we know. But it’s really true! We’ll pay our dues to paper straws — which are also always going to be ban compliant — but it’s tough to find a consumer who truly enjoys them. Alternatives made from wheat, pasta, agave, and other materials can have allergen problems. UrthPact’s straws are made from PHA, a bioplastic with a canola oil base. They function exactly like plastic but are certified for both home and industrial compost. Bioplastics that are certified for home compost are one of the best options for the future of single-use straws.

The bans are coming. As the initial shock of the pandemic comes to a close, legislators are getting back to issues like plastic pollution. And with the ban rollbacks that were associated with COVID, plastic pollution spiked immensely throughout the pandemic. Now, cities and legislators are coming back at plastic pollution harder than ever. So be aware. Check the news and legislation in your city to see if there’s a ban currently in place or coming in the near future. If you need to find an alternative to your current products, check out the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) website for a list of certified industrially compostable products (be sure to check if there’s an industrial composter in your area too!) And if you have questions about ban language or if an alternative is allowed or not, ask your local legislation! The more informed you are as a business owner, the more successful you will be in avoiding the fines you could incur for not complying with your local ban.

And one more shameless plug — if you’re looking for the best alternative to plastic that will give you the functionality your customers expect, while also being compliant with your local bans, be sure to check out UrthPact’s home compostable drinking straws and send us an inquiry!

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