Ban on plastic straws will be considered by Maine lawmakers in 2020

Senator David Miramant, a Democrat from Knox County, is proposing a ban on plastic straws and other single use items.

AUGUSTA – When the Maine Legislature reconvenes in January for their second regular session, a bill from a Knox County lawmaker that proposes to ban straws and other items will be up for consideration. The legislature’s second shorter session is supposed to be reserved for emergency legislation and fiscal matters.

The proposal, titled “An Act To Ban Single-use Plastic Straws, Splash Sticks and Beverage Lid Plugs” has been listed on the Maine Revisor’s Office as one of the proposals put forward by Senator David Miramant (D – Knox).

In the most recent legislative session, lawmakers, mostly along party lines, passed laws banning the use of styrofoam containers, plastic bags in many retail locations and restricting the sale of balloons. Governor Janet Mills eagerly signed those bills into law.

Miramant’s proposal currently has the legislative number L.R. 2708, but no bill text or L.D. number is yet available.

Many liberal cities and a handful of states have taken action to ban plastic straws, with those efforts gaining momentum in recent years. The city of Portland, Maine is currently considering a local plastic straw ban.

At the core of the argument is that plastic waste is destructive to marine wildlife, such as whales. However, a report from the United Nations Environment program indicates that 90% of the plastic waste in the world’s oceans can be traced back to just ten rivers in Asia and Africa. Those rivers pump plastic into the world’s oceans from cities perched along their shores.

Screenshot from a UN Environment report showing that ten rivers carry more than 90 of the plastic waste that ends up in the world’s oceans.

That reality means any reduction in Maine’s plastic waste is likely to be lost in the tsunami of waste produced by foreign nations, but for many, that doesn’t matter.

Complaints have arisen about the alternatives to single use plastic straws. Advocates for Americans with disabilities say that reusable straws, such as stainless steel straws, create serious injury risk for individuals who have tremors or spastic issues. In Great Britain, the New York Times reported that a woman was killed when she fell on a stainless steel straw and it impaled her eye socket.

For many individuals living with disabilities, the requirement to sterilize a straw between each use also becomes a significant burden compared to single use straws.

Biodegradable straws also present problems with allergens for some individuals. Beyond safety, biodegradable straws have drawn criticism for altering the taste and texture of drinks and, in some cases, just falling apart in drinks.

Over the summer, the re-election campaign of President Donald Trump sold nearly half a million dollars worth of plastic customized “Trump” straws because, they said, liberal paper straws “don’t work.” That effort spawned the Twitter hashtag #MakeStrawsGreatAgain.

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