Aug 14, 2019

Proposed Madison Ordinance That Regulates Straw Distribution

straws_plastic_1200018505August, 2019

Alderman Syed Abbas recently proposed an ordinance to the Madison City Council that would limit the use of plastic straws at restaurants and bars. The proposed ordinance would prohibit restaurants and bars in the City of Madison from providing plastic straws to customers unless they ask for one.

Under the proposal, restaurants would still be allowed to give straws to take-out and drive-thru customers and could give dine-in customers plastic straw alternatives, such as paper, bamboo or reusable metal straws. Restaurants would also be able to leave straws out for customers to grab on their own.

The proposal includes fines of $200 for the first offense, $500 for the second offense and $750 for 3rd or more offense.  

This is the first attempt by a municipality in Wisconsin to restrict plastic straws. While the ordinance would only affect restaurants in the city of Madison, it could result in other municipalities around the state following suit and enacting similar laws.

WRA worked to pass a bill to prohibit local municipalities from enacting bans/prohibitions on take out containers, bags and cups. However, this law does not cover straws, creating an unintended loophole allowing municipalities to propose legislation regarding use of straws.

The use of plastic straws is not a public health issue and a $200 fine for what in most circumstances would be employee error is ridiculous. The fact is that many restaurants have already implemented straw use policies or have switched to non-plastic straws due to customer interest in this issue.

This straw distribution proposal will need to go through several committees before coming back to the council for a final vote. WRA staff will engage with our members within the city of Madison on the issue and will attend hearings and committee meetings to present the restaurant industry point of view on this topic.

Whether its straws or other restrictions on how businesses operate, please let WRA know if you hear of proposals in your municipality that could negatively affect restaurant businesses. Contact Susan Quam at squam@wirestaurant.org or 608-270-9950.