Portland Joins the Drinking Straw Crackdown

Yet another pointless municipal straw ban takes hold


Jesse Kraft/Dreamstime.com

Portland, Oregon, is the latest city to crack down on plastic straws, voting unanimously Wednesday to introduce a straw-on-request law.

It's not the worst straw restriction I've seen, but it is nonetheless a depressing reminder of how normalized this form of petty authoritarianism has become.

The new Portland ordinance forbids food retailers and institutional cafeterias (like those at schools and hospitals) from offering straws, plastic cutlery, and single-use condiment packages. They can still provide those items, but customers must first request them.

Violators of Portland's ordinance will be hit with a $100 fine for a first offence, $200 for a second, and $500 for every violation thereafter. A business cannot be penalized more than once in a week for handing out unsolicited straws.

"We are clearly on a path to eliminating single-use plastics. This is our first line in the sand," the Portland Tribune quotes Mayor Ted Wheeler saying after passage of the bill.

On the one hand, Portland's ordinance is narrower in scope and less severe in its sanctions than other straw bans that've popped up across the country. Seattle and San Francisco have both banned outright straws at restaurants. Santa Barbara's straw prohibition initially opened up restaurateurs to criminal charges. (Those were eventually pulled from the bill.)

Portland's ordinance was mild enough that it even nabbed the endorsement of the lobbyist for the state's restaurant and lodging association, reports the Tribune. Ensuring straws are available on request has also quieted complaints from the disabled community. As with all straw bans, however, the carve-outs are a reminder that these policies are invasive and unpopular at the conceptual level.

Portlanders will need to get in the habit of asking for soy sauce when they get takeout, because thanks to the fearless efforts of the Portland City Council, anticipating the customers wants and simply chucking a few bags of soy sauce in with the order is now actually illegal. This would seem ridiculous even if there were a compelling environmental justification for restrictions on single-use plastics. There is not.

The vast majority of plastics in the world's oceans do not come from the takeout joints of Portland or the coffee shops of Seattle, but rather from the world's developing nations, which lack the sophisticated waste collection systems we have in the U.S.

These bans can't fix systemic waste collection systems abroad, but they sure do inconvenience consumers here in the U.S.

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  1. *feigns surprise*

    1. What about paper straws? I’ve tried to buy those and they might as well have been banned by a death sentence for all the availability I found. Amazon was the only place paper straws could be gotten at any price back in 2012. Is there something wrong with paper straws? Do they lead to HFCS abuse? Are they illegal too?

      1. ” Is there something wrong with paper straws?”

        9 time out of 10, they get soggy and stop working before you finish your drink. Paper straws went away after plastic straws became available because they aren’t fit for purpose.

        1. OTOH, organic PLA straws work fine except for hot beverages (where a straw is ill advised anyway), keep for a long time, are biodegradable, and don’t get soggy. Do these straw bans allow giving them out without penalty? They solve the problem that the ban is purported to solve, so I don’t see why not.

          1. No, because it looks like a straw, just like how vaping looks like smoking. So it is therefore unacceptable because it is not in the SPIRIT of the law.

          2. Do PLA straws have any real world advantage over common plastic straws? Do they somehow work better? I certainly doubt they are cheaper.

            By all means, if people want to use PLA (if only for the extra smugness) then use them.

            Otherwise ‘petty’ authoritarianism should not be met with bargaining or acquiescence. It’s only ‘petty’ because – right now – that’s all they think they can get away with.

  2. Sucky places that I never want to live, join in an unconstitutional ban of a product.

    1. Your shitty state puts people in prison for growing plants but that’s not a problem for you?

      1. Nice strawman.

      2. Your shitty state also did that.

        My state has so much open space that people can grow a few plants for themselves without a hassle by the TOP MEN like you have in your shitty state.

        1. Ahhh that may be true, but you are forgetting that smugly-named virtue signalers like Ordinary Person doesn’t want to legalize pot so much as they want something else to tax. Then it’s an okay thing in their eyes.

          We can’t just have you growing it without consent if the State, can we?!

          1. +1

      3. Pot is legal in Oregon. Where you been?

        but they DO avidly support and enable homeless camps, invasions of Federal government facilities, and are eager hosts to destructive riots which include destruction of private property, arson. blocking of public rights of way, all supported and approved of, even praised, by their stupid excuse of a mayor. That same city government has railroaded a man who, when surrounded and confronted by a grossly advantaged imminent lethal force mob threatening grave and immediate bodily harm, , drew his lawfully carried concealed handgun, finger OFF trigger, and brought it to bear in the confrontation, causing the attackers to make an informed decision to change their plans of certain harm to the intended victim. By denying defendant the presenting of his own witnesses including several video streams that clearly showed the situation favouring justifying the use of lethal force in self defense, still convicted the man unjustly. That case is on appeal. And Ted Wheeler was in favour of this despicable behaviour toward the intnded victim. He has also ordered the Portland Police Bureau members to stand down and let the rioters do their thing, and refused to prosecute any of the destroyers, but was find prosecuting the man who defended himself when in mortal danger. I’ve seen the videos.

      4. “Your shitty state puts people in prison for growing plants.”

        So does yours. Or are you saying that coca, and opium poppy cultivation are legal there?

  3. If it’s Portland, it’s progressive. Do not think for one second that a majority of their residents would stop short of anything that smacks of virtue in the name of any ism you can think of.

    And on a national level, what is good for them should be mandatory for everyone else.

  4. Iron Law of Environmental Legislating: A ban that is easy and politically attractive to the Left will always be enacted, no matter how silly its actual results are.

  5. Wasn’t Oregon one of the birthplaces of a proto-libertarian Human Rights Party before the real thing existed?

    1. It’s also where Tonie Nathan came from, the first woman and first Jew to receive an electoral vote, as the Libertarian VP candidate in 1972.

  6. They can still provide those items, but customers must first request them.

    Was she asking for it?
    Was she asking nice?
    If she was asking for it
    Did she ask you twice?

    1. OK so I’ll ASK for the dum thing twice… then announce that Ten Wheeler is an idiot.

  7. Third-world countries used to burn garbage before the Church of Gaia demanded carbon-tax tithing everywhere except the most populous communist dictatorship. With measurements showing no departure from normal temperature variations of air or oceans, perhaps a little less of the weaponized fanaticism that has been worsening matters is in order. Do I hear a second?

  8. What these idiots don’t understand is single use packages are more environmentally friendly than having to wash cutlery which waste water and is not always sucessfull also single use is also healthier, ever been to an even where the condiments are out where flies and filthy people can get to them. it is gross and i will not buy anything that needs condiments because of that. single use is not always about convienence

    1. Don’t confuse virtue signalers with facts.
      They get confused.

      Virtue signaling outweighs facts.

  9. Get on board or get out of the way, Reason, this is the future.

    1. That sounds like a straw man to me.

      1. more like extremely well carried off sarcasm, based on what I’ve seen from this poster in the past.
        Nice job, there, Reynolds.

  10. Porlandians are ineffective at just about getting anything done, just like many of the other SJW and environmentalists.

    So, pick on something you can accomplish even if it has no effect on anything other than pure virtue signalling puffery.

    Of course PVSP is important to the left. It’s easier than making a difference.

    1. The tyranny of good intentions accomplishes nothing other than tyranny.

      But really, that is the whole point of the exercise.

  11. If you request a plastic straw, you will be straw shamed.

    1. and I’ll come right back with more shame on the one attempting to shame me. I’m thick skinned enough to pick up the grenade and throw it back. Watching the look of shock and surprise on the face of the snowflake attempting the shaming will be priceless.

    2. I’d be tempted to ask for extras. One for my drink, one for the nearest city park, and one for the sewer system.

      If I was feeling exceptionally malevolent might even put one in a storm drain.

      Don’t make me do it Portland, don’t make me do it.

  12. In a local Lebanese food joint in Akron (motto: We’re pretty fucking far from either ocean!), the waitress had to ask us if we wanted straws for our iced teas.

    When I asked her why she had to ask, she rolled her eyes and just said “management says so”.

    Now usually, we here in flyover country get coastal fads two years after they are no longer coastal fads. But Akron is now jumping into the forefront of coastal petty authoritarian fads….

  13. Fads come and go, fascism is forever.

  14. I agree that drinking straws should be lost and forgotten, but a crackdown is such a strong word. I’ve been to various restaurants over the course of the last couple of months, and they barely have straws anyway.|
    But all in good time, I guess. What needs to be done, needs to be done.

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