Single-Use Plastics Bans are Back!

When did plastic bans leave in the first place you ask? Well, you can check out the original story on our blog here, but the gist of the story is that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of cities rolled back single-use plastics bans that were in place or in development in order to accommodate problems associated with the quarantine and pandemic. Now, we get it – it was a global pandemic, the world had a lot going on. But does that really make protecting our planet from plastic less important? NO. Luckily, now that we’ve learned how to live in this new, covid-managed world, single-use plastics bans are coming back with a vengeance, as people are starting to realize the damage we did during COVID.

As of 2021, over 8 million tons of pandemic-generated plastic waste had been produced. To put that in perspective, that’s an ADDITIONAL 8 million tons on top of the 300 million tons we already produce. That’s not an insignificant amount! In a time when our plastic pollution problem was getting worse, why did we consider part of the solution to be removing the legislation that at least did a little bit to reduce the amount of plastic waste we produced, pandemic-generated or not? We should have been striving to put a dent in the 300 million to make room for the 8 million. Instead, we allowed pollution levels to skyrocket, leaving us with an even larger problem than we had before.

Here’s the positive side: single-use plastics bans are back and on the rise. One of the most notable plastic bans going into effect this year was in New York City. NYC has had a plastic bag ban in place since October of 2020. More recently, they’ve enacted a plastic straw and stirrer ban. The ban was enacted in November of 2021, and businesses have 1 year to find and implement alternatives prior to being fined. Fines will begin in November of 2022. The fines for this ban mirror many other plastic straw and stirrer bans nationwide: $100 for first offense, $200 for the second, and $400 for the third and all subsequent offenses.

Having a big city like New York take steps forward to fight plastic pollution is a great example to set for cities not only throughout the US, but throughout the world. It proves that bans like this can be implemented and (hopefully) enforced successfully in large cities. It’s estimated that the USA used 1.6 straws per person per day. If we apply this to New York City (a population of 8.419 million people), that means that they’ll be keeping 13.47 million plastic straws from heading to oceans and landfills EVERY DAY. That’s nearly 5 BILLION straws saved per year in a single city in the US. Imagine if every large city in the world had bans in place like this. Imagine the dent we could make in the plastic pollution problem.

Plastic pollution doesn’t just put marine life at risk, but it can put terrestrial wildlife and humans at risk too. When animals consume plastic and then we consume meat, we are consuming the same chemicals that those animals did. It’s estimated that in a year, we consume as much as a half a pound of plastic. Is that really a number we want to continue to rise? Plastic bans are a great place to start fixing this problem. More cities should take a page out of New York’s book. Plastic bans are back, and it’s time for the world to get on board.

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

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!