Garrett Park will be the first Maryland town to ban single-use plastic straws after its council passed an ordinance this week prohibiting their use.
Starting March 3, businesses and events in the area are no longer allowed to dispense single-use plastic straws, plastic stirrers or plastic “splash sticks,” according to the ordinance. Violators face a $100 fine.
The only exceptions to the legislation are for customers who require a plastic straw to accommodate a disability and beverages prepared outside the town that come with an attached straw, such as juice boxes.
The council determined straws distributed in Garrett Park should be made of biodegradable material, such as paper or hay.
Councilman Dan Simons wrote and presented the ordinance. He said in a phone interview that the community supported the ban and the council faced minimal pushback.
“Generally when you educate people about the real environmental impact, people get on board,” Simons said.
Garrett Park – a town of 1,000 people between North Bethesda and Kensington — has one restaurant, two event spaces and a nursery the town can rent out that will be affected by the ban, Simons said.
The restaurant is committed to complying voluntarily and supported the legislation, Simons said.
Councilmembers can notify businesses who aren’t in compliance with the ban and the town has an ordinance allowing them to alert the county to take legal action, Simons said.
The concept was a new one to Maryland Municipal League Research Specialist Jim Peck, but he “wouldn’t be surprised” if other municipalities followed with similar bans.
Charles County enacted a provision in October 2018 banning plastic straws and stirrers, though the legislation won’t go into effect until July 2020 and enforcement won’t begin until January 2021.
Montgomery County adopted restrictions on polystyrene containers in 2015, and multiple municipalities have enacted full bans, most recently Rockville in January.
Peck said he believes legislation will be brought to the Maryland General Assembly calling for a statewide ban, which could potentially encompass more than just straws.
Simons founded Our Last Straw, a group of restaurants, hotels and other organizations across the Washington region working to eliminate single-use plastic straws. The coalition has worked with municipalities to develop legislation banning the products.
Simons said the vision is to have Our Last Straw chapters around the country, then move on to plastic forks and to-go containers once straws are entirely removed.
“It’s really a long-term geographic and wide-ranging single-use plastics strategy to get those things eliminated from the supply chain and replaced with things that are a little more sensible,” Simons said.