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WUWM's Susan Bence reports on Wisconsin environmental issues.

Milwaukee Leaders Approve Limiting Plastic Straws, Not Banning Them

Milwaukee is one step closer to limiting plastic straws at food and beverage establishments.

If you order a drink at a Milwaukee coffee shop or restaurant, there’s a good chance you automatically get a plastic straw. But an ordinance being considered in Milwaukee would limit plastic straws from being handed out at food and beverage establishments unless you ask for one.

There was no real discussion when the Common Council voted Tuesday on the plastic straw ordinance. Alderman Russell Stamper and three fellow alderpersons wanted to cosponsor the bill. Only Alderman Bob Donovan expressed opposition — briefly.

"Mr. Chair, as I said in committee, I am not going to support this bill," Donovan says.

Donovan is talking about the Public Safety and Health Committee, which he chairs. Two weeks ago the committee discussed the plastic straw resolution.

"I would like to see this be more left up to the businesses. I'm a little concerned about government just coming down and issuing bans on this or that, when I think a better route to go is, as some of us have been saying here, educating the community one way or another, and the demand will eventually go that way," Donovan says.

READ: Why People With Disabilities Want Bans On Plastic Straws To Be More Flexible

Alderman Cavalier Johnson sponsored the legislation. He told Donovan it mirrors policy being adopted in cities across the United States.  

"I think it’s great that ... the Bucks, the Brewers and some of the grocery options [are] banning plastics — particularly straws and packaging going into the future — that’s great. But sometimes business also needs to be nudged in the right direction as well, and that’s what we’re getting to here," Johnson says.

It's important to note that the plastic straw ordinance is not a ban, he explains. It allows local establishments to keep plastic straws on hand in case a customer requests one.

"To make sure that people who do have disabilities are not singled out. That they don’t have to carry papers on them to prove that they have some sort of a disability if they go to a restaurant and they request these straws, that they’ll be able to get them without any hassle," Johnsons says.

To transform the proposal to policy will require Mayor Tom Barrett's approval. The target date to roll out the ordinance is April 14, 2020.

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Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
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