The City of West Palm Beach (the City) is committed to environmental stewardship and leadership and finds that it is in the public interest, safety, and welfare of its citizens and visitors to reduce litter and pollutants on the lands and in the waters of the City. Discarded plastic straws and plastic stirrers, as well as other single-use plastic items, threaten wildlife and marine life, negatively impact the City’s stormwater management system and waterways, and litter the waterfront and waters within the City.
Is it really that bad?
It is estimated that Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day, one to five trillion plastic bags every year, and one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute around the world. Plastics often end up in our waterways where they take many years to begin breaking down into smaller, micro-size pieces that are oftentimes mistaken as food by marine life. This, in turn, can have detrimental effects not only on marine life, but may also eventually cause harm to humans by way of consumption and collateral environmental effects. According to a United Nations (UN) article, over eight million metric tons of plastic are found in our oceans every year, impacting our marine wildlife, fisheries, and tourism, and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. The volume of plastic in our oceans is projected to out-weigh marine life by 2050. Even after degrading, plastics never leave the environment. It is critical to reduce our dependency on single-use plastics.
Plastic Straw and Stirrer Ban
On February 25, 2019, we introduced Ordinance 4836-19 to the City Commission to prohibit the distribution, sale or use of plastic straws and plastic stirrers. The ordinance was well accepted after the first reading with support from public speakers with Surfrider Foundation - Palm Beach County and Surface71 (a student organization). During the second reading on March 11, 2019, the ordinance unanimously passed and will go into effect on October 1, 2019. We have begun additional education and outreach efforts to help assist consumers and businesses with the transition. Metal straws and tabletop info will be available for restaurants and bars on a first come, first served basis to educate their customers and provide a free alternative. To request a free supply of metal straws, please email Elaine in the Office of Sustainability (EChristian@wpb.org).
Bioplastics are NOT an Allowable Alternative
Products made from alternative non-plastic materials such as paper, rye wheat/hay, bamboo, reusable glass, steel, or metal straws are available as replacements for single-use plastic straws and stirrers. PLA #7 (bioplastic) is not an allowable alternative as scientific studies have shown that these products remain entirely intact for two or more years on land and in the ocean. Paper straws with a plastic lining must also be avoided. Businesses should consult their supplier for compliance or visit thelastplasticstraw.org for additional alternatives.
Go Beyond the Ordinance
Businesses and residents are encouraged to commit to eliminating and/or reducing the following single-use plastic items:
Plastic Straw Alternatives: https://thelastplasticstraw.org/resources/
Alternatives with discount codes: https://www.strawlessocean.org/alternatives
5 Gyres Better Alternatives Now (BAN) List 2.0 includes case studies on bioplastics and best alternatives for our planet
Have questions about bioplastics? Learn more: http://www.beachapedia.org/Bioplastics
Questions? Contact Elaine Christian (firstname.lastname@example.org, 561-804-4984, TTY 800-955-8771)