By Jane Smith
The Delray Beach City Commission likely will vote to phase in a ban on plastic straws at its July 10 meeting, when it considers an ordinance requiring restaurants, bars and other beverage purveyors to supply plastic straws only upon customer request.
In May, the city’s Green Implementation Advisory Board passed a resolution asking for the ban, said Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, sustainability officer and liaison with the board.
“It came from the recent Earth Day that had an international theme of plastics in the ocean,” she said.
In April, Delray Beach screened the film A Plastic Ocean in the Crest Theatre. The documentary showed marine animals and water birds affected by the plastics they had eaten.
Delray Beach joins a few cities nationally that are moving to ban plastic straws, including Fort Myers, Miami Beach and Seattle. All are coastal cities that want to prevent plastics from getting into the ocean.
The effort was helped in 2015 by a video showing researchers removing a plastic straw stuck in a sea turtle’s nostril.
Delray Beach also recently moved its sustainability officer to report directly to the city manager. That elevation, recommended by the city’s Rising Waters Task Force, should help the city receive grant money for its environmental projects, said Mayor Shelly Petrolia.
Puszkin-Chevlin hopes in 18 months that consumers will get used to drinking cold beverages without plastic straws and no longer ask for them. Then, the city can move to ban plastic straws from being served in restaurants and bars.
“We’ll start with a public awareness campaign to get information to consumers,” said Hal Stern, new chairman of the green board. “We need to get the hospitality industry behind us.”
If the commission passes the first phase of a ban, an education event called Skip the Straw will be held at The OG, a relatively new bar in Delray Beach, from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6.
About 130 bars and restaurants will receive four tickets each, said Brian Rosen, OG partner.
One tip that will be offered is to move the straws to a different area so that the server doesn’t automatically put a plastic straw in a drink, said Melissa Wilkinson, a college intern who is working with Puszkin-Chevlin on the project.
For the past six months, wording on the menu at Caffe Luna Rosa has said plastic straws are given only by request, said founder Fran Marincola.
On July 1, the beachside restaurant began offering recyclable straws to customers who request straws, Marincola said. The restaurant purchased “corn-plastic” straws that are compostable and made by Eco-Products of Boulder, Colo.
Regular plastic straws are made from petroleum and don’t break down, he said.
“The movement is not all about straws, but it starts with straws,” said Evan Orellana, education and animal care director at the Sandoway Discovery Center in Delray Beach.
“We’ve made plastic straws on the forefront of reducing single-use plastics in our lives. Instead of using a K-cup to brew coffee, maybe you’ll consider making coffee with a filter.”