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Seattle's Ban on Plastic Straws, Utensils Begins July 1

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Starting next month, Seattle eateries will no longer provide plastic straws, utensils and cocktail picks to customers.

"As of July 1, 2018, food services businesses should not be providing plastic straws or utensils," Sego Jackson, the strategic advisor for Waste Prevention and Product Stewardship for Seattle Public Utilities told Q13 FOX. "What they should be providing are compostable straws or compostable utensils. But they also might be providing durables, reusables, or encouraging you to skip the straw altogether."


There are roughly 5,000 eateries in the city, meaning the new ordinance could potentially make a big impact. Lonely Whale's Strawless in Seattle campaign in September eliminated 2.3 million plastic straws—and that was just from 150 participating restaurants and venues in that month alone, EcoWatch has learned.

Seattle Public Utilities

A growing movement of individuals, municipalities, countries and major corporations are pledging to eliminate single-use plastics that clog our oceans and harm marine life. Seattle is reportedly the first major city in the U.S. to enact such a ban. Other major cities such as New York and San Francisco are considering similar legislation.

"Plastic pollution is surpassing crisis levels in the world's oceans, and I'm proud Seattle is leading the way and setting an example for the nation by enacting a plastic straw ban," said Mami Hara, general manager of Seattle Public Utilities, according to KOMO-TV.

"Our goal for the next year is to help all restaurants, food trucks and food service operations shift away from plastic to compostable food serviceware," Hara added.

The ban only applies to restaurants and the items can still be purchased at city grocery stores. Failure to comply with the ordinance may result in a $250 fine, a letter from Seattle Public Utilities states.

The city's effort to ban disposal plastic food service ware had been in the books since 2010 but was stalled because compostable alternatives were not viable yet, according to Jackson.

Year-by-year exemptions had allowed restaurants to continue dispensing plastic straws and utensils. The exemption was not renewed this year and is set to expire June 30.

Seattle has made concentrated efforts to reduce its plastic footprint. In 2010, a ban on plastic bags went into effect, which help cut plastic bag waste from residential garbage from 262 tons to 136 tons by 2014—nearly a 50 percent drop.

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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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