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KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

200 Seattle businesses say goodbye to plastic drinking straws

Biodegradable paper straws will replace plastic at dozens of Seattle restaurants. Some businesses will offer glass, stainless steel, or bamboo straws.
Flickr Photo/Andrea Goh (CC BY 2.0)/
Biodegradable paper straws will replace plastic at dozens of Seattle restaurants. Some businesses will offer glass, stainless steel, or bamboo straws.

Two hundred or so businesses in Seattle are doing away with plastic drinking straws this month. It’s an environmental initiative deemed “Strawless in Seattle.”

In most of the participating restaurants, customers won’t receive a straw with their drink. They may request a straw — in that case, they would be offered a biodegradable paper version or a reusable straw made of glass or another material.

Americans use 500 million single-use, plastic straws every day. That's according to Lonely Whale Foundation, which is pushing Seattle businesses to ditch their plastic straws.

The foundation’s goal is to cut out that amount, 500 million straws, within the next year in Seattle alone. The nationwide goal is to cut consumption by 12 million plastic straws within a year.

Actor Adrian Grenier, known as ‘Vince’ on HBO's Entourage, co-founded Lonely Whale Foundation. He says he wants people to think more about the plastics they use.

Grenier: "We see straws as the gateway; it's the low-hanging plastic if you will. Once we start with plastic straws, you can't help but expand beyond there. It's an entry point for people to start considering the issues."

Plastics have a way of getting into oceans, harming marine life. Bits of micro-plastic have been found in the flesh of some wild fish, for example. Lonely Whale Foundation says plastics in the ocean will outweigh the fish by 2050.

For "Strawless in Seattle" the participating businesses include 25 Sea-Tac airport restaurants, Safeco Field, CenturyLink Stadium, Ivar's restaurants and the Space Needle, among others. Many of the businesses have committed to stop using plastic straws altogether, even after the September initiative.

A couple of restaurants in New York have also stopped using plastic straws.

Dune Ives, Lonely Whale Foundation’s executive director, says they will take the initiative to 10 other cities in 2018, after seeing how it works in Seattle.

Ives: "So that we then know, how does an airport go plastic-straw free? And then how do stadiums go plastic straw free? And can we create a celebration around this, and really drive the conversation around single use plastics through the lens of that straw?"

In Seattle, this is just the beginning. The city plans to prohibit restaurants from giving out plastic straws or utensils starting summer of 2018.