Seattle restaurant chain gives insight on plastic utensil, straw ban

Local News

Oahu lawmakers are thinking about banning single-use plastic utensils, straws, and bags.    

The bill passed its first reading at city council on Wednesday.  

The first US city to ban plastic utensils and straws was Seattle, Washington, and it’s been a little over a year since the ban went into effect.

“It was an initial problem and anytime you change things everybody gets nervous about it,” said

Bob Donegan, Ivar’s Restaurants president.

Ivar’s has about 50 locations in the Washington area including takeout spots at sports stadiums like Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field, and Husky Stadium.

Donegan said that before the ban, his total cost of sales for disposable items was 4 percent.

One year in, he said his total sales it’s less than one percent more.

Although Ivar’s prices increased in October 2018, he said very little had to do with spending more on compostable utensils and straws.

“The cost of seafood relative to the cost of rice, fries or coleslaw is significantly higher,” he explained. “So when those things bounce around [in price], there is a big impact on our costs.”

He said the biggest issue at first was the distributors and manufacturers, who weren’t prepared for the switch.

“All the straws that are made are made in Asia, and the Asian manufacturers and distributors did not get compostable straws or paper straws to Seattle in time to comply with the ordinance,” he said.

He said the compostable straws cost four times more and don’t work as well as the plastic straws.

“We still do not have wide diameter straws that are available for our customers because the ship hasn’t arrived yet,” he said.

He said Seattle restaurants haven’t been impacted negatively but agreed that it was costly at first.

“When it started out it was expensive and then as the supply channel filled with ingredients the cost of the products came down.”

“Like your community, [we’re] very focused on the water and when you see the damaging effect of plastic straws on the marine life and litter on the beaches it’s not a hard sell to tell people why we’re using paper straws or we don’t have straws today because the manufacturers didn’t get them here,” Donegan said.

Ocean conservationists in Hawaii hope the bill passes.

“We’re finding a lot of bottles, food wrappers, food containers, utensils and single-use plastics that we use every single day [on our beaches], said Doorae Shin, Surfrider Foundation Oahu.

“We’re really excited about Bill 40 going through because we’ve been fighting for a ban for single-use plastics for a long time,” she said.

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