The Portland City Council is moving ahead with plans to eventually ban the distribution of plastic straws, stirrers and splash sticks in Maine’s largest city.

Councilors are scheduled to hold a first reading Monday night on the so-called straw ordinance before taking a final vote on Oct. 21, according to city spokesperson Jessica Grondin.

Under the proposed ordinance, restaurants, bars and food providers would only be allowed to supply plastic beverage straws, stirrers and splash sticks as of April 1, 2020, if a customer requests it. The distribution of straws, stirrers and sticks would be completely banned as of Jan. 1, 2021.

“The proposed ordinance utilizes a phased approach to discourage, and then ban the use of plastic straws in Portland,” the city said in a news release.

According to the city, non-plastic straw alternatives could be provided upon the request of a customer, including straws made of paper, sugar cane, bamboo, pasta or metal. Businesses would be allowed to provide plastic straws to people with disabilities, who might otherwise not be able to drink without one.

Exemptions would be allowed for straws used by a medical or dental office, school districts and by individuals with a disability or impairment that requires use of a straw.

The city estimates that 100,000 plastic straws are used daily in Portland. Splash sticks are used to keep heat and liquid from escaping a lidded cup.

“This ordinance aims to cut down on the pollution caused by plastic straws, which are not recyclable, and encourage new habits such as residents bringing their own reusable straws to restaurants and coffee shops,” the city’s release said.

The move toward banning single-use plastic straws in Portland has also caught on in other parts of the state as plastic straws have become a poster product for environmental groups fighting to curb the enormous amount of plastic making its way into oceans and landfills.  In the U.S. alone, 500 million plastic straws are discarded every day or 175 billion straws annually, according to The Last Plastic Straw – an online movement to clean up plastic pollution.

Several restaurants in Maine have already banned the use of plastic straws. Last year, a persuasive second-grade student convinced the city of Portland to implement Phoebe’s Rule, which led to a ban on the use of plastic straws at the Clock Tower Cafe in City Hall.

Phoebe MacDonald, who was 8 years old when she went before the City Council in July 2018, passed out aluminum straws to councilors to demonstrate an eco-friendly alternative.

“I did this for the ocean and for the lives of all the animals. They deserve to have a good environment. Our home is their home,” MacDonald, a student at Ocean Avenue Elementary School, told councilors.

Among the supporters of the plastic straw ban are Surfrider Foundation Maine. Its online campaign, Rise Above Plastics, says that plastic is a major source of marine pollution worldwide. Surfrider Foundation says that minimizing the use of plastic will protect the environment and help curb climate change.

Grondin said that councilor Brian Batson proposed the plastic straw ordinance. The council’s Sustainability and Transportation Committee approved the ordinance 3-0 at its Sept. 18 meeting. Monday night’s City Council meeting is scheduled to being at 5:30 in the City Hall council chambers.

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