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Covering the local impact of plastic straw bans

July 19, 2018

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multi-colored plastic straws
Starbucks and other companies are eliminating plastic straws for environmental reasons (Photo by David McEachan via Pexels, CCO)

Environmentalists have long decried the wastefulness of single-use plastic straws, but the issue has recently entered the mainstream as Seattle’s ban on plastic straws and utensils at all food service businesses went into effect on July 1 and other municipalities are considering similar bans.

Some businesses are already moving away from plastic straws ahead of local bans. Seattle-based coffee brand Starbucks has announced that it will eliminate plastic straws at all 28,000 of its stores by 2020, according to The New RepublicUSA Today reports that Alaska Airlines and American Airlines also plan to eliminate plastic straws.

Consider some of these questions as you’re planning your coverage of this timely issue and its business impact.

Is there any pending legislation around straws in your area? If so, who’s sponsoring it and when would the ban go into effect? How do local restaurants, sports stadiums, food trucks and other businesses feel about this change? Can they quantify the cost of alternatives? Will that cost result in higher menu prices to the end customer or will the business absorb that cost into their margins?

If your city or town doesn’t have any pending legislation around straws, can you find any local businesses who are reducing their use of plastic straws for environmental or other reasons? Are they switching to compostable straws or only giving out straws by request? What’s their rationale and how is the decision impacting their bottom line?

For many businesses, eliminating plastic straws means switching to other options such as paper straws, compostable straws or special lids. Who makes these alternatives? Are any manufacturers located in your neck of the woods? What’s the anticipated sales impact as restaurants increasingly look to alternatives?

What’s the impact of plastic straw bans on local people with disabilities? CNN reports that this community is concerned about how the change at Starbucks will impact people with limited muscle control. How can you put a local face on this wrinkle? How would disability advocates balance ADA accommodations with environmental concerns?

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