San Francisco may become latest city to end use of plastic straws

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco made one more step in joining cities such as Vancouver, Berkeley and Seattle in banning plastic straws.

Environmental advocates from various groups and non-profits around the Bay Area gathered in front of city hall to make their case for legislation proposed by Supervisor Katy Tang. The measure not only includes the elimination of plastic straws, but many non-recyclable plastic items like coffee stirrers. It also includes language that would make San Francisco the first city in the country to ban fluorinated chemicals in food containers. Because San Francisco uses 1-million plastic straws a day, the issue took center stage.

"I wanted to start with legislation to change containers like coffee cups which we use every single day, but wanted to then start a bit smaller for now and then move on the other items in the future." says Tang.

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Supervisor Asha Safai supports the legislation to get more trash off the streets. A whopping 67-percent of waste found on city streets comes from disposable food container and items like straws.

"If we wanted to, we couldn't recycle them because they literally fall thru the cracks of the machines."

RELATED: Proposed San Francisco straw ban may affect people with disabilities

Restaurants, such as Tacolicious have already made the switch. But criticism has come from smaller restaurants who can't shoulder the extra cost of paper.

Bruno Dravenieks is the founder of AmeriStraw, a global paper straw distributor and says with time and demand, costs can come down.

"Compared to a plastic straw, you're looking at 2-4 times more expensive. In the future as global production increased, it'll be like a new TV. It's expensive now but it'll come down."

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Dravenieks says the paper straw industry has exploded 5,000 percent since similar ordinances were passed in other parts of the country and world.

For those with disabilities and other medical conditions where drinking from a straw is needed, there is a provision in the legislation to allow for plastic straws in special use cases. There are currently paper straws on the market that do bend to allow for easier liquid consumption.

The measure passed through the board's land use subcommittee on Monday and is expected to be taken up by the full board the following week with possible complete passage by the end of July.
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