San Franciscans have had their last straw — plastic straw, anyway.
On July 1, a city ordinance took effect banning the sale and distribution of plastic straws and other plastic dining items, forcing restaurants to turn to biodegradable alternatives such as paper, wood, wheat or bamboo.
It’s an adjustment that isn’t going down easily for some drinkers.
The new rule goes a step further than the statewide “straws upon request” law that bars dine-in restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws unless a customer asks for one. San Francisco’s ordinance also bans companies from automatically including single-use accessories — lids, condiment packages, utensils and napkins as well as straws — in dine-in, take-out or delivery orders.
“It’s definitely more expensive,” said Benny Han, owner of Black Sugar Boba in the Tenderloin, which is currently using paper straws. He said customers have asked for multiple straws due to breakage. “We are still figuring out our best option.”
Alameda, Berkeley and Oakland also have enacted plastic straw bans in recent years.
Even businesses that appreciate the ban’s higher purpose are feeling some pain.
“It’s a big jump in price,” said Andrew Barnett, owner of Linea Caffe in the Mission District. “But I feel that, for helping the environment, it is well worth the investment.”
Barnett said each paper straw costs 2.5 cents more than the compostable plastic straws his cafe was using three months ago. San Francisco’s ban includes compostable bioplastics because they’re not completely biodegradable.
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed the ban in July 2018, and Debbie Raphael, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment, noted that businesses were given a year to prepare.
“Time and time again, we have seen the marketplace respond to San Francisco policy,” she said. “When local government sends signals to the market, the market will adjust and adapt. We saw it with the styrofoam ban, the plastic bag ban, and we’re seeing it now with plastic straws.”
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