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Oregon Straw Ban: What You Need to Know

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In 2019, Governor Kate Brown of Oregon signed Senate Bill 90 into law. This bill specifically banned restaurants and other food distributors from automatically including plastic straws without the customer requesting one.

Although that’s the gist of the law, it has a few more intricacies that make it unique. Let’s go through the law, its effects, and some alternatives for those useless paper straws.

Oregon Plastic Straw Ban

Beginning in the summer of 2019, restaurants, convenience stores, and anywhere else that serves food and drink in Oregon had to have an alternative for their long-used plastic straws. When the straw ban came into effect at the start of 2020, they didn’t have many options.

Other plastic utensils, like stir sticks, forks, and knives, are also banned in the same way as plastic straws. Restaurants and convenience stores can give them out, but only after a customer’s request. Plastic packaged condiments, like ketchup and mustard, are also banned unless requested.

The plastic straw ban didn’t outright ban the products. Instead, the law mandated that retailers couldn’t give out orders automatically, including a plastic straw. Instead, the customer would have to ask for a straw. Once the customer asks, the retailer can give out plastic straws.

There are two other cases where retailers can give out plastic straws. If a person is in a drive-through, they can receive plastic straws without asking. The other case is self-serve facilities, like a coffee bar at a gas station. 

So, although the ban was effective in that many people stopped using plastic straws, it didn’t ban plastic straws completely. In places like Portland, restaurants must also consider “compostable” or “biodegradable” plastic straws as plastic straws and only give them out on request.

The law also instituted fines for establishments that don’t comply. First, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Health Authority, or the county public health departments warn the business twice. If a business still hands out plastic straws, they are liable for a $25 a day fine, with a maximum fine of up to $300 a year.

During the same session, Governor Kate Brown also passed House Bill 2509. This law banned the use of single-use plastic checkout bags. Unlike the straw ban, the plastic bag ban ensured that retailers could not give out plastic bags without first charging the customer.

Plastic Alternatives

There are plenty of alternatives for plastic straws, but not many of them are appealing. The first is getting customers to bring their reusable straws to restaurants. These can be metal, wood, or even plastic, and they last for years. It can be a hassle getting customers to bring in their own straws, though.

In some cases, restaurants or other retailers will use paper straws. Paper straws usually have a thin wax coating to help prevent the straw from going soggy. But if you’ve ever used a paper straw, you know that they go soggy regardless. 

Paper Straws vs Sugarcane Straws

As more and more laws like the one in Oregon pass their state legislatures, the need for solid alternatives to single-use plastic straws increases. As of right now, the majority of restaurants and other food and beverage retailers use paper straws. 

Let’s be clear—paper straws are the worst. They can’t handle drinks with ice, nor can they handle warm drinks, like hot chocolate. The temperatures essentially melt the straw, making it soggy even faster.

And if you happen to be drinking a lukewarm drink, a paper straw still won’t survive. Paper straw manufacturers say that their products last for up to three hours in liquid. From my experience, if a straw lasts an hour, I consider it lucky.

The one advantage paper straws have over most of their competition is how quickly they begin biodegrading. Within four hours in a liquid, you can put your paper straw in the compost bin.

So, if paper straws are so bad, what alternatives are there? Sugarcane straws are one of the new types of straws on the market. Sugarcane straws use fibers from the sugarcane plant to create a straw with structural integrity and 100% biodegradable materials.

One of the best qualities of sugarcane straws is their taste. If you’ve ever used a paper straw, you know they have a unique flavor. They essentially taste like paper, and who wants that in their mouth?

Sugarcane straws have a slight brown sugar flavor. Although not prominent enough to replace any sugar in your drink, the straw leaves a pleasant taste in your mouth instead of a paper flavor.

So, Why Not Try Sugarcane Straws?

Seeing as many restaurants are replacing their plastic straws with alternatives, why not buy sugarcane straws in Oregon? They last longer in beverages, taste better, and are 100% biodegradable, just like paper straws. Compared to paper and plastic straws, sugarcane straws are a no-brainer!

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