A committee of the Milwaukee Common Council on Thursday voted in favor of an ordinance prohibiting restaurants and bars from providing single-use, plastic straws — though it does make exceptions.
Ald. Cavalier Johnson, the measure’s lead sponsor, noted the impact of plastics on the environment, including how long they take to break down. He also pointed out that attendees can’t get plastic straws at Fiserv Forum or Miller Park.
“This, I think, is the next logical step in Milwaukee’s progression as it relates to environmental stewardship to work toward the winnowing down of products that we know pollute our rivers, our lakes and are filling the stomachs of whales and other wildlife, with deadly consequences, products that are disrupting ecosystems here and globally,” he said at Thursday’s meeting of the Public Safety and Health Committee.
Johnson said the ordinance strikes a good balance between environmentalists, disability rights groups and restaurateurs.
There are exemptions to the ban, including if a customer requests a plastic straw and if the customer has purchased a drink like a milkshake or smoothie that requires a large, durable straw.
He also noted such efforts in other communities around the country.
“This outright ban might be a little hard for people to, pardon the pun, swallow,” Ald. Mark Borkowski said.
He noted that some people with disabilities need straws and asked Johnson for more clarification on that point.
Johnson acknowledged the needs of people with disabilities, saying that patrons would be able to request a plastic straw and that establishments could keep those on hand.
He also noted it wouldn’t be an outright ban the moment the measure passes the Common Council and is signed by Mayor Tom Barrett.
The prohibition would go into effect April 14.
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