Ban PLA Plastic Straws in DC

Ban PLA Plastic Straws in DC

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Kristin Turner started this petition to DC Council

In 2018, volunteers cleaning up the Anacostia River collected 4,026 straws in a single day. This is not unique to the Washington, D.C. community; as an item often found in ocean/watershed clean-ups, discarded straws have a pronounced global impact. D.C. Council recognized the problems plastic straws pose on the health of our local and global ecosystems when the City Council voted to ban most plastic straws, effective January 2020. However, there is a significant loophole. The bill still allows the use of one kind of plastic straw: those made from the chemical polylactic acid (PLA).

What’s Wrong With PLA Straws?

Although PLA straws are made from plant-based materials like corn starch, they can be just as harmful to the environment as other plastic straws. In the environment, PLA takes hundreds of years to break down—much like the traditional plastic straws currently banned in DC. PLA straws are only an improvement if they are sent to special industrial composting facilities with specific microorganisms and temperatures ranging from 120-160°F. Unfortunately, PLA straws do not often end up being industrially composted. Instead, PLA straws end up in the trash, where they won’t biodegrade on any useful timescale, or they litter our streets and pollute our waterways. 

Washington, D.C. only has nine public composting locations, none of which accept biodegradable or compostable plastics. Even at restaurants that manage their own composting bins, customers are unlikely to separate out straws or may not be aware that they should do so. If a restaurant does maintain its own composting bins, customers that take food to-go—a pertinent restriction amid COVID-19—are unable to utilize those in order to properly dispose of their PLA straws. DC should follow the lead of other cities such as San Francisco and ban the use of PLA straws.

We Need Action

A goal of the D.C. plastic straw ban is to “keep our neighborhoods, our waterways, and our city trash free.” D.C. Council should add PLA straws to the current plastic straw ban in order to better meet their stated intention. Truly eco-friendly alternatives to PLA are plentiful and affordable, including hay/wheat, paper, bamboo, and reusable options. Traditional plastic straws would remain available to persons with disabilities. The fact of the matter is single-use, plastic straws—including those made from PLA—end up in the environment where they pose a threat to marine life and entire ecosystems. PLA straws undermine the goals of the current DC plastic straw bill and should thus be added to the ban.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
At 200 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!