Restaurants will be asked to keep a limited supply of plastic straws for customers with disabilities.
Prince George's County has joined surrounding jurisdictions in banning single-use plastic straws.
The county's council voted unanimously Tuesday to ban the sale or distribution of plastic straws and stirrers at all county restaurants and retail establishments. The legislation now goes for approval to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. Similar legislation has already been in effect in the District, the City of Takoma Park and Charles County in southern Maryland.
Council member Jolene Ivey said she learned about the issue of single-use plastic straws during her visit with students at Kenmore Middle School's environmental topics committee in Landover. The students gave her the school cafeteria's traditional plastic spork and straw wrapped in clear plastic.
"If you count every student at Kenmore, if you count every student in our school system, there are 25,272,000 of these (straws) every year," Ivey told the council while holding up the plastic. "Those little tiny straws in here, they don't even use them. Why it's included is a mystery."
But, an outright ban on straws is a concern for people with disabilities, and brick and mortar retail establishments.
"Banning the sale of plastic straws in brick and mortar stores in Prince George's County would only result in the members of the disability community having to seek out those items online," said Sarah Price, legislative associate with Maryland's Retail Association.
The bill does have an exemption for people with disabilities to request plastic straws at restaurants. Restaurants will be asked to keep a limited supply of plastic straws for customers with disabilities. There is also an exemption for retail establishments which requires them to sell both plastic straws and alternative compostable or reusable straws.
The county department of the environment will be in charge of enforcement, but it's unclear how aggressive those enforcement measures will be.
Since July 1st in the District, the city's Department of Energy and the Environment are in charge of enforcing the plastic straw ban. Businesses in the District can be fined $100 to $800 for failing to comply with DC's straw ban.
Prince George's County's office of investigations and audits said that while the bill will help reduce plastic straw distribution, it will not stop the sale and distribution of single-use plastic straws.
The bill will take effect on July 1, 2020. Fines for businesses not in compliance with this law won't start until Jan. 1, 2021.