Some Milwaukee aldermen want to ban plastic straws at bars and restaurants

Could go into affect in April

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People who prefer using plastic straws to consume beverages at bars and restaurants in Milwaukee may soon be out of luck. That’s because members of the Common Council are considering a ban on single-use plastic straws at all food and beverage establishments in the city, which would prohibit those businesses from providing plastic straws to customers.

The ordinance aims to address rising concerns about the harmful affects of single-use plastics on the environment, said Alderman Cavalier Johnson, who is cosponsoring the proposal with Alderman Bob Bauman, Alderman Nik Kovac and Alderwoman Nikiya Dodd.

Johnson said a number of Milwaukee alders have attempted to ban plastic bags, but state law prevents municipalities from establishing such a regulation. That’s not the case for straws, though.

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“Wherever we can take action on single-use plastics, we should and that’s exactly what we’re doing with this,” said Johnson.

The ordinance has garnered support from the Milwaukee Riverkeeper organization, but Johnson said he is working to also gain support also from state disability rights advocacy groups.

“What we’ve seen in other communities that have banned these products is there sometimes are negative impact to people with disabilities, so we were working to include language that was amenable to a group like that,” Johnson said.

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Johnson said he is unsure of how Milwaukee’s business community and local restaurant and tavern groups may respond to the change, saying he hasn’t discussed it with those groups. He anticipates concerns possibly surrounding the increased price of paper straws over plastic straws or the timeline of the ban.

The proposal was originally scheduled for a review at Thursday’s Public Safety and Health Committee meeting, but has been pushed back to November, Johnson said. If approved, the ban wouldn’t go into affect until April 2020 in order to give businesses and customers time to adjust.

If the proposal is approved, Milwaukee would join a number of other cities that have banned plastic straws over the past year, including Seattle, Washington D.C., Berkley, California and Fort Myers, Florida.

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“Being the community that Milwaukee is, a place that rests on three rivers and a great lake and that has rebranded itself as the Fresh Coast, we value our environment here, so overall I think the community will get it and will understand that we’re trying to do all we can where we can to make sure we protect our environment,” Johnson said.

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