Could straws be the next plastic product banished from Santa Fe?
A new push to usher plastic straws out in the capital city is gaining steam as Santa Fe City Council is now weighing a potential resolution in support of the idea.
The idea did not start in city council though. A local advocate, Amber Morningstar Byars, started the movement, which already has a handful of businesses on board, pledging to change their plastic straw practices by the end of the year.
“I want them to start thinking differently about the way that they use single-use plastic in their everyday lives,” said Byars.
A student at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Byars is also the founder of the “Strawless Santa Fe” campaign, a project she started at the beginning of 2018 as a senior project for her degree.
Byars has also worked in the restaurant industry for years.
“I see firsthand how much single-use plastic waste is put into our landfills and our waste systems,” said Byars.
She says traditional plastic straws have a negative effect on the environment that should be concerning to everyone.
“They break down into teeny tiny pieces, smaller and smaller and smaller and that ends up in water systems and aquifers,” said Byars.
Byars has now collected nearly 200 signatures from Santa Fe residents who support the idea of ending the use of plastic straws, and pledge to change their use of the product by year’s end. She has also gotten nearly a dozen businesses to sign the pledge, which asks for the businesses to use paper, biodegradable or reusable straws by 2019. The pledge also allows for businesses to only make straws available by request.
“We don’t have plastic straws,” said Jennifer Day, owner of New Mexico Fine Dining in Santa Fe.
Day’s company owns three other restaurants in Santa Fe, all of which no longer use plastic straws. Day called the cost difference between plastic and paper straws “minimal.”
“A paper straw is not any trouble to any business,” said Day.
Santa Fe City Council is also jumping in to have a say on the pledge. The council is now reviewing a proposed resolution that would “encourage” businesses to stop using plastic straws. The resolution is “non-binding,” meaning it does not impose a new ordinance that would force restaurants to take part in anything.
While Byars says her main goal is to change awareness on the issue, she says an ordinance would be ideal, in the future. There’s no timeline on when, though.
A nearby business owner on the Santa Fe Plaza, Sebastian Romero, says he isn’t worried about the impact of a potential ban, citing how many more paper offerings became available once Santa Fe banned plastic bags.
“One big value for our business and our family is leaving a legacy, and part of that is leaving behind something that’s sustainable,” said Romero.
A few other cities including Seattle and Malibu are set to implement plastic straw bans this summer.