Montgomery County restaurants and food service businesses are being reminded to ‘Skip the Straw’ starting Saturday, May 1, in a new campaign by the County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). A bill proposed by County Executive Marc Elrich and approved by the County Council created a law that prohibits straws from being offered to dine-in customers, except upon request or to comply with Federal disability rights laws.
Straws provided in self-serve dispensers, and with carryout, delivery, or drive-through sales, can be provided as has been the case in the past.
The “Skip the Straw” campaign seeks to help enforce the provisions of Bill 32-20, which aims to reduce waste and remove single-use straws from the environment. The Council approved the bill in December 2020.
“Bill 32-20 is intended to keep litter out of our streams and waterways,” said County Executive Elrich. “There are viable, reusable, degradable and compostable alternatives on the market today that are comparable in cost to plastic straws. Working together, we can move Montgomery County away from plastic straws to environmentally safe alternatives to protect our County, our region and the planet.”
DEP is working closely with partners in the business community to develop and provide bi-lingual educational materials for businesses to use in their efforts to inform employees and customers of the new County requirements.
“Single-use plastic straws are a problem in the recycling system and the environment,” said DEP Director Adam Ortiz. “They jam recycling machines and, if improperly disposed, plastic straws blow out of trash cans, wash down storm drains and end up in our streams, rivers and oceans. With this bill, Montgomery County is moving forward to help clean up the environment.”
Beginning Dec. 21, 2021, the legislation will require that any straws provided in response to customer requests, in self-serve dispensers and with carryout, delivery or drive-through sales be reusable, marine-degradable or home compostable. Restaurants must retain a limited supply of plastic straws that can be provided to customers to comply with Federal disability rights laws.
Durable and reusable straws are made of bamboo, glass, metal and silicone. Marine degradable/home compostable straws include ones made of paper and hay, many of which are comparable in price. There is an exemption to the requirement for situations where a plastic straw is required to accommodate a customer’s medical or disability-related needs.
DEP will be providing a significant amount of education and will continue to work with food service businesses and partners in the business community to ensure awareness and understanding of the requirements, as well as offer technical assistance to bring about compliance with the law. In order to address instances of willful non-compliance, the law does allow for the issuance of citations with a fine of $500 for the initial offense. Subsequent repeat offenses could result in fines of $750, which may be levied each day that the violation persists.
For more information on straws, visit MontgomeryCountyMD.gov/SkipTheStraw or find us on social using hashtag #SkipTheStraw.