Chicago Voters Say “Yes” to a Single-Use Plastic Straw Ban

On November 2018, Chicago residents voted “yes” to a measure asking them whether the city should ban single-use plastic straws, passing by an 11-point margin. Following the Election Day results, 15th ward Alderman Raymond Lopez announced his plan to introduce an ordinance for the Chicago City Council to vote on the ban. Businesses are taking notice, with Illinois Restaurants Association CEO and president Sam Toia expressing his members’ lack of surprise in the results.

Chicago-based restaurants, venues, museums and colleges have already switched from plastic straws to biodegradable alternatives like bamboo and paper straws. The Chicago White Sox banned plastic straws from their stadium, Guaranteed Rate Field, becoming the first Major League Baseball team in the country to do so. California-based food service company Bon Appetit announced that it will no longer offer plastic straws in its cafes and restaurants. Bon Appetit operates sites at the Art Institute of Chicago, suburban Wheaton College, and the University of Chicago. 

If the Chicago City Council follows up on the public’s vote and passes a ban, the city will become the third of America’s three biggest cities to restrict single-use plastics. The City Council of Los Angeles recently voted to prohibit restaurants from handing out plastic straws unless requested, and the municipal government of New York City will no longer purchase single-use plastics. New York’s Mayor Bill DeBlasio has backed a bill by City Council to prohibit plastic cutlery and other non-biodegradable, single-use foodware from restaurants located in the city. Chicago is a major hub for the agricultural and restaurant industry. Among these corporations is McDonald’s, whose headquarters are located in the city. A voter-supported ban on plastic straws in Chicago could send out a strong message to the food and beverage industry that opposition to single-use plastics is gaining more ground with each day, and major changes are inevitable.

How soon Chicago’s new Mayor Lori Lightfoot pushes for a vote on a plastic straw ban remains to be seen, however a ban seems sooner than later. Chicago struggles in its battle against single-use plastic waste. The Better Government Association reported that Chicago has the worst recycling rate of any U.S. city; just 9 percent of all residential waste collected gets recycled. Chicago is located on the shore of Lake Michigan, which is already littered with unrecycled plastic waste. Unrecycled plastic waste becomes trapped in the lake, where it gets swallowed by fish, and can eventually end up in the drinking water of residents in cities like Chicago. With low recycling rates and the health of Lake Michigan at stake, Chicago has many reasons to move away from single-use plastic straws, and embrace sustainable, biodegradable alternatives. 

Two Coastal Israeli Cities to Ban Single-Use Plastic from Their Beaches

Two of Israel’s coastal cities, Herzliya and Eilat, have announced plans to ban single-use plastics from their beaches. Banned items include but are not limited to plastic bags, plastic straws, and plastic cutlery. Both cities will be joining a growing list of countries and municipalities around the world’s coasts that have passed similar bans on single-use plastics, including Peru, Chile, and several US states.

The city of Eilat, located on the Red Sea, intends to tackle plastic waste on its beaches through a two-stage plan. This plan includes educating and discouraging local businesses from using plastics, and then enforcing the ban on single-use plastics from its beaches. Plastic water bottles will be exempt from the ban, however. Eilat’s city hall also plans to organize a campaign to raise awareness among residents and visitors about the harmful effects of plastic on marine life and coral reefs. For Eilat, banning single-use plastics from its beaches will be crucial to preserving its world-famous coral reefs that attract divers from around the world. Eilat’s ban on single-use plastics from its beach also coincides with Egypt’s Red Sea Governorate’s ban on all single-use plastics from its beaches by June. With authorities in two different countries announcing bans on single-use plastics from their beaches, there may be a chance for a more aggressive push to eliminate plastic waste from the Red Sea. Eilat is also collaborating with governmental agencies and organizations to educate visitors, residents and business owners about the harmful effects of plastic waste through social media campaigns and billboards.

Herliya’s ban on single-use plastics from its Mediterranean beaches is part of a joint initiative between its local government and the Israeli environmental organization Zalul (“clear”), launched on January 2018. Herzliya’s mayor Moshe Fadlon intends to make his municipality the starting point for a mission to ban single-use plastics across Israel. Fadlon plans to create a ripple effect by encouraging other cities to follow Herzliya, and eventually introducing a national law in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, which will prohibit single-use plastics from the entire country. Israel’s government has taken notice of the growing concern over the harmful effects of plastic on the world’s waters. The Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry’s data estimates that plastics comprise 90 percent of trash in marine environments, with nearly 60 percent of that waste coming from trash thrown onto beaches. The ministry is also looking into investigating how much of the amount of plastic on Israel’s beaches comes from other countries, and how much of that amount is generated within the country. Plastic waste has a tremendous impact on the environment. Not only does plastic waste hurt or kill marine animals and birds that mistake it for food, but this waste can break down into micro-particles that can migrate through the food chain and end up in human bodies.

The new ban on single-use plastics from the beaches of Herzliya and Eilat shows promise, as both cities are tackling plastic pollution in two major bodies of water, as well as taking the steps of raising national awareness through PR and policy campaigns. Should these efforts succeed, Israel may become a world leader in eliminating single-use plastic waste. Tourists visiting Israeli beaches may soon take out lunch from biodegradable fiber cartons, and enjoy their beverages with paper straws instead of their plastic counterparts.

New Challenges to San Francisco Restaurants Serving Boba Drinks

Shops and restaurants selling boba tea in San Francisco will soon face a new challenge to their businesses from a ban on plastic straws, passed in 2018 by the Board of Supervisors. Starting on July of 2019, shops violating this new ordinance will face fines ranging from 100 to 500 dollars with each offense. In order to stay in compliance, finding an eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic straws will be crucial for shops selling boba tea. Boba tea is a Taiwanese drink seeing an increasing popularity in US cities, and consists of a sweet tea filled with large glutinous tapioca marbles. Boba tea straws must be wide enough to allow the tapioca balls to pass through them, while also being sturdy with a sharpened tip capable of punching through a film secured over the top of the drink, which prevents spilling. The challenge for San Francisco-based shops selling boba tea is finding a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic straws that meets all of these requirements.

San Francisco will only permit non-plastic alternatives such as bamboo, metal, or paper straws. Plant-based PLA plastic straws will be prohibited in San Francisco, as although they can be readily recycled, they are too small to be caught and sorted by the city’s PLA composting facilities. PLA plastic is also not safe for the waters surrounding San Francisco, as the cold temperatures prevent the material from biodegrading, making PLA straws just as harmful to marine animals as normal plastic straws. Reusable metal and bamboo straws are an alternative, however they are far more expensive to buy than single-use straws, and many tourists visiting San Francisco may balk at the prospect of spending as much as two dollars or more in order to enjoy their drinks. With metal and bamboo straws an expensive and likely unappealing prospect, and single-use PLA straws not being an option for boba drinks, San Francisco business will likely navigate to paper straws as single-use biodegradable alternatives. 

There are a handful of paper straw companies that offer boba straws wide enough to be used, however many of these straws do not come with sharp angled tips capable of piercing the container tops, meaning shops selling boba tea will need to spend the time and laborious effort of cutting the tips of each straw themselves. Cost will also be a concern, with most paper boba straws on the market today costing up to 19 cents a piece, adding a greater business expense to San Francisco businesses purchasing large quantities to keep up with customer demand in a competitive business market with high rent costs. As many of these local stores are family owned with far less wealth than larger franchise businesses, they may have no other option than to place the price of these biodegradable straws on their patrons. For eco-friendly straw producers, the challenge will be to offer small businesses in San Francisco with a paper straw that not only has all the capabilities they expect from a boba straw, but can also be manufactured and sold at an affordable price.

OB Street Fair

As Seen On TV Paper Straws Packs

Carnival agrees to pay $20 million for pollution violations in settlement

Carnival Corp. reached a settlement Monday with federal prosecutors in which the world’s largest cruise line agreed to pay a $20 million penalty because its ships continued to pollute the oceans despite a previous criminal conviction aimed at curbing similar conduct. Senior U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the agreement after Carnival CEO Arnold Donald stood up in open court and admitted the company’s responsibility for probation violations stemming from the previous environmental case.

“The company pleads guilty,” Arnold said six times in a packed courtroom that include other senior Carnival executives, including company chairman and Miami Heat owner Micky Arison. “We acknowledge the shortcomings. I am here today to formulate a plan to fix them,” Arnold added.

“The proof will be in the pudding, won’t it?” the judge replied. “If you all did not have the environment, you would have nothing to sell.”

Carnival admitted to violating terms of probation from a 2016 criminal conviction for discharging oily waste from its Princess Cruise Lines ships and covering it up. Carnival paid a $40 million fine and was put on five years’ probation in that case, which affected all nine of its cruise brands that boast more than 100 ships.

Now Carnival has acknowledged that in the years since its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping "gray water" in prohibited places such Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park and knowingly allowing plastic to be discharged along with food waste in the Bahamas, which poses a severe threat to marine life.

Now Carnival has acknowledged that in the years since its ships have committed environmental crimes such as dumping “gray water” in prohibited places such Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park and knowingly allowing plastic to be discharged along with food waste in the Bahamas, which poses a severe threat to marine life. The company also admitted to falsifying compliance documents and other administrative violations such as having cleanup teams visit its ships just before scheduled inspections.

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Seitz at an earlier hearing threatened to bar Carnival from docking at U.S. ports because of the violations and said she might hold executives individually liable for the probation violations. “The concern I have is that senior management has no skin in the game,” Seitz said, adding that future violations might be met with prison time and criminal fines for individuals. “My goal is to have the defendant change its behavior.”

Under the settlement, Carnival promised there will be additional audits to check for violations, a restructuring of the company’s compliance and training programs, a better system for reporting environmental violations to state and federal agencies and improved waste management practices. The agreement also would set Sept. 13 and Oct. 9 deadlines to create an improved compliance plan and make other changes, subject to fines of $1 million per day if those deadlines are not met.

If a second round of deadlines are not met, the fines could go up to $10 million a day. Other proposed changes include a reduction by Carnival in the use of single-use plastic items across its entire fleet and the creation of “tiger teams” meant to make improvements in the ships’ food and beverage systems and how waste is handled at sea.

Seitz is retiring later this year and is turning over the case to U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, who jointly presided over Monday’s hearing. Three people who claimed they were victims of Carnival’s environmental violations attended the hearing.

Their attorney, Knoll Lowney, expressed skepticism that Carnival will keep its word this time. “Time and time again, Carnival has shown its contempt of environmental laws and the rule of law,” he said. “Here we are again.”

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Fiesta Island Trash Cleanup

OkStraw Paper Straws is planning to join FIDO (Fiesta Island Dog Owners) for a Trash cleanup at Fiesta Island in Mission Bay, San Diego, on June 9thLet us know if you would like to join the cause!

Clean up will be from 9:30am to 11am.

Volunteers helping with the pick-up: Bring your own gloves if you prefer. FIDO will have single-use latex gloves along with trash bags to fill. If you have a picker-upper, we recommend bringing that too, unless the reason for helping is the wonderful ab exercising!

National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Illinois

Thanks for visiting us in Chicago!  

To show our thanks and to get our paper straws out to you, we are offering a huge discount for the next week only - Free shipping as well.    Buy 3 cases of our most popular paper straws, get the 4th case Free.  

Coupon Code: NRASHOW99

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Jumbo Cocktail – 6x197mm – 0.24″x7.75″
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Black Jumbo Unwrapped

Jumbo Cocktail – 6x197mm – 0.24″x7.75″
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Purchase any combination of 4 cases of our 5000 piece white or black jumbo paper straws and we'll give you 1 of the cases for free.
If you have any questions or need any assistance in ordering, please call (866)939-3227 or email sales@okstraw.com.

BOOTH #5068

National Restaurant Association show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois

May 18th - 21st 2019

Come get free samples of our paper straws – available when you visit us at booth 5068 at the National Restaurant Association show at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

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  • Assorted Stripes Paper Straws - Jumbo Cocktail

    Sale! $20.00 $9.99
  • Boba Paper Straws - Green Bamboo Diagonal Cut - 4-PLY Unwrapped

    Sale! $14.99$179.99

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‘Mass extinction event’ that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report

'Mass extinction event' that could wipe out a million species is already underway, says UN-backed report

The report comes after a week-long meeting of experts from 50 countries in Paris. They  warn that a “mass extinction event” precipitated by human activities is already underway – the first such event since dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid 66 million years ago. Scientists say that in total, our planet has experienced five previous mass extinctions in the past half-billion years; this sixth wave would be the first caused by humans.

The report calls for urgent changes in government policies to limit environmental damage and climate change, but will also recommend that families or individuals sponsor beekeepers near their homes, for a cost of less than $100 a year. Bee populations are falling but they are essential to pollinate crops and food supplies depend on them.

Eating organic food is another way to preserve fast shrinking insect populations. The report says the reason your car windscreen is no longer covered in dead insects after a long drive is because pesticides have wiped out nearly 80 per cent of Europe’s winged insects over the past three decades. The decline has also reduced bird numbers by nearly a third, because there are no longer enough insects for them to eat. If insects disappear, vegetable and fruit crops will fail because they won’t be pollinated.

The report also renews calls to give up plastic straws. Americans alone use 500 million a day, but they end up in the sea and harm fish and marine animals.

The report also renews calls to give up plastic straws. Americans alone use 500 million a year, but they end up in the sea and harm fish and marine animals.

People can help save endangered species through adoption, it says; a chimpanzee, for example, can be sponsored for a donation to WWF of around $60 a year.

Eating less meat will also help to preserve forests, the experts say. Livestock and agriculture cause deforestation in many parts of the world because trees are cut down to make way for pasture or to grow crops. In the Amazon, some 63 per cent of deforestation stems from livestock farming. But neither should you turn to tofu — soya growing is also a major culprit in the destruction of the world’s largest rainforest.

The report warns that “half a million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

Robert Watson, chair of the group that drafted the report, said: “The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge for decades to come.”

Species are being lost because of shrinking habitats, illegal hunting, climate change and pollution, campaigners say.

The report has been prepared over three years for a cost of more than £1.8 million by “150 leading international experts from 50 countries, balancing representation from the natural and social sciences, with additional contributions from a further 310 experts,” according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Known officially as the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, it draws on nearly 15,000 references including scientific papers and government data.

It is backed up by an open letter urging world leaders to act immediately, signed by nearly 600 scientists, business leaders, environmentalists and public figures, including Jane Goodall, the primatologist and conservationist, and Chris Packham, the naturalist and television presenter.

Maine becomes the first state to ban Styrofoam

Maine becomes the first state to ban Styrofoam

Food containers made of Styrofoam, also known as polystyrene, will be officially banned from businesses in Maine after governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law Tuesday.

The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2021, prohibits restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and grocery stores from using the to-go foam containers because they cannot be recycled in Maine.

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Maine has become the first state to take such a step as debate about banning plastic bags or other disposable products is spreading across the nation.
 
While states like New York and California have banned single-use plastic bags, others such as Tennessee and Florida have made it illegal for local municipalities to regulate them.
 
Maryland’s legislature also has approved bills to ban polystyrene, but it’s unclear whether Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will sign the legislation. Democratic Delegate Brooke Lierman, the primary sponsor of the Maryland House bill, said banning foam products was the first step to curbing people’s reliance on single-use plastics.
 
“Polystyrene cannot be recycled like a lot of other products, so while that cup of coffee may be finished, the Styrofoam cup it was in is not,” Mills said in a statement to CNN affiliate WMTW. “In fact, it will be around for decades to come and eventually it will break down into particles, polluting our environment, hurting our wildlife, and even detrimentally impacting our economy.”

Maine has become the first state to take such a step as debate about banning plastic bags or other disposable products is spreading across the nation.

The Maine law, originally proposed by Rep. Stanley Zeigler (D-Montville), also applies to plastic beverage stirrers.
 
Those who violate the law could face a fine of up to $100, News Center Maine reports.
“Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution,” said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), in a statement.
“With the threats posed by plastic pollution becoming more apparent, costly, and even deadly to wildlife, we need to be doing everything possible to limit our use and better manage our single-use plastics — starting with eliminating the use of unnecessary forms like plastic foam.”
 
The NRCM reports that plastic foam food containers are among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the US.
 
More than 256 million pieces of disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, platters, and trays are used every year in Maine, the NRCM says.
Some 15 towns in the state have already banned foam food containers, it says.
 
The reason why Styrofoam is difficult to clean up is that it easily breaks into smaller pieces, according to Ashley Van Stone, executive director of Trash Free Maryland.
Foam also absorbs toxins faster than other plastics and is mistaken for food by marine life, Van Stone said. And the toxins that wildlife consumes makes its way up the food chain into people.

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

Biologists find trash in belly of stranded baby dolphin

ByTHE ASSOCIATED PRESS

A rare deep-water dolphin stranded on a Florida beach and later euthanized had a stomach full of trash.

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon during a necropsy of the young rough-toothed dolphin after it washed ashore in Fort Myers Beach earlier this week.

Biologists said they found two plastic bags and a shredded balloon

Animal experts said the rough-toothed dolphin was emaciated and in poor health. Florida Today reports such a young dolphin should have still been with its mother but somehow wound up far from her deep-water home. Biologists and bystanders worked to help the struggling animal, but wildlife official decided to euthanize the dolphin on-site.

Scientists are still trying to find a cause of death but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the finding highlights the need to reduce single-use plastic and to not release balloons into the environment.