St. Catharines, Ontario bans the use and sale of plastic straws and stir sticks in all city facilities, parks, city-run events, and public spaces.

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Author: Karena Walter, St. Catharines Standard

St. Catharines residents are going to have to get used to sipping instead of sucking.

City council unanimously passed a plastic straw ban in municipal facilities this week after a motion by Port Dalhousie Coun. Bruce Williamson.

“We hope through this motion that it brings attention and that people think about single-use disposable items and whether they really need them, like a stir stick or a straw,” Williamson said during Monday’s council meeting.

Most of the time, he said, people can do without them.

“There are viable alternatives.”

The motion bans plastic straws and stir sticks for sale and use in city facilities, parks, city-run events and public spaces and requires non-plastic, compostable alternatives be used when necessary.

Organizers of festivals and events being held in city-owned spaces, such as Montebello Park, will still be able to use plastic straws but will be encouraged by city staff to adopt environmentally-friendly alternatives where possible.

Williamson said the issue was brought to public consciousness about a year ago when the image of a majestic sea turtle with a straw sticking out of its nostril received worldwide attention. He said that was one image, but there are many sea birds and other small animals that can’t distinguish between plastic and organic materials, so they’re ingesting the plastic.

“To me this is a small first step, a symbolic gesture,” said Williamson, adding plastic pollution in oceans, waterways and on land is a massive issue.

“It’s an ever-growing problem and it’s not something we seem to be capable of dealing with very effectively.”

Merritton Coun. Greg Miller asked that the motion clarify that plastic straws will still be available at city facilities for people with accessibility issues who need them. He said there hasn’t been an exact alternative to plastic straws that’s flexible and can handle hot and cold drinks.

Council agreed that non-plastic, compostable alternatives that are compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act be used when necessary and plastic only be used when a plastic straw is required.

St. Catharines previously implemented a ban on the sale of plastic water bottles in municipal facilities in July and asked staff to implement a comprehensive ban.

The plastic straw resolution will be sent to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative for member cities to consider adopting as policy.

It will also be sent to other Niagara municipalities, Brock University, Niagara College, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

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