On October 21, 2019, the Portland city council unanimously voted to pass a citywide ordinance becoming the first municipality in Maine to ban single-use plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks.
After a local 2nd grade student petitioned the council in 2018 to keep single-use plastic straws out of city-owned buildings, the city council and Surfrider Maine Chapter were both inspired and motivated to pass this historic bill.
The groundswell continued over the next couple of years, and the Surfrider Maine chapter worked to gather data from local food and drink establishments asking about current straw use and distribution policies. During discussions with city council members, SF lended crucial information about the ineffectiveness of bioplastics (compostable straws) as a replacement, and encouraged them not to adopt an ask-first policy.
At the hearing, six Surfrider Chapter members attended to show support, give their testimony, and be a part of this monumental evening in the city of Portland. Plus, a younger Maine resident bravely spoke up on behalf of greening his local waterways in Norway, Maine. “The meeting was boring, but that part was fun!”, said Conner. Yeah, dude!
However, there was one caveat: The council debated on the issue of accommodating anyone who identifies as living with “disability or other impairment” to request a plastic straw without having to explain themself. A creative compromise was struck that both maintained the ban and sought to support the disability community: The amendment made to the ordinance clarifies that anyone requiring a plastic straw to drink hot or cold liquids could ask for one, and a straw would be provided with no additional questions asked- a true win-win!
The ban will be phased in beginning April 1, 2020, whereby all types of single-use straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be available on request by the customer only.
The ban on plastics kicks in on January 1, 2021, coinciding with the statewide foam food packaging and plastic stirrer ban’s effective date. After 1/1/21, only natural made single-use straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be available on request of the customer, except for those customers expressing an explicit need for a plastic straw to drink hot or cold beverages, which will then be available as a secondary default upon such request without further question.
Thanks to everyone who contributed, showed support, and worked hard to make our beautiful city a leader in passing environmentally-conscious legislation!
– The Surfrider Maine Chapter