ST. PETERSBURG —The city’s mandatory ban of single-use plastic drinking straws is set to kick in on Jan. 1. But first, City Council on Thursday voted to tweak its straw ordinance.
The ordinance, passed in late 2018, offered businesses and customers a grace period in 2019. Businesses could hand out single-use plastic straws only if customers requested them. But once the new year begins, businesses within the city won’t be able to offer plastic straws at all.
Since the reduction of plastic straws became a trending city issue last year, some businesses have transitioned to straws from alternative materials, like reusable hard plastic, metal, paper and even pasta. Thursday’s tweak, which passed unanimously, will ensure even compliant alternative straws must be requested, instead of being handed out automatically.
The council also voted on several additional changes, such as clearly delineating which straws are prohibited. Bioplastic straws made of renewable materials rather than petroleum, and other would-be alternatives, are not compliant under the tweaked rule. That could mean some businesses that chose bioplastic straws will have to find yet another alternative.
Further, the council voted to carve out exemptions for people who need a plastic straw due to a physical or medical need. The tweak also included a measure allowing drive-thrus to give out straws with drinks automatically, so long as they are a compliant alternative.