Beverage Provider FAQ

What is the policy?

As of April 1, 2020, food providers and retailers in Portland may not provide customers with plastic straws, stirrers, or splash sticks unless specifically requested by the customer.  This includes orders for dine-in, drive-through, take-out, or delivery service.

As of January 1, 2021, distribution of plastic beverage straws, stirrers and splash sticks will be prohibited. At that time, beverage providers my give customers non-plastic straws if they specifically request them.

See full ordinance.

Which businesses does this apply to?

All retail food and beverage providers are required to comply, including sit-down and fast food restaurants, food carts, bars, coffee and tea shops, grocery stores, convenience stores, hotels and motels, caterers and food service contractors.

This includes educational and governmental institutions that provide food and beverages.

Which items are included?

Plastic straws, stirrers, and splash sticks.

What are accepted plastic straw alternatives?

Alternatives to plastic straws may be provided without being requested April 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020. As of January 1, 2021, alternatives to plastic straws may only be provided upon request. These include straws made from:

  • Paper
  • Metal
  • Pasta
  • Sugar cane
  • Bamboo

What about “compostable” plastics?

There is no exception for plastic items labeled “compostable,” “biodegradable” or “made from plants.” These items cannot be composted in Portland. Additionally, they can have negative environmental impacts equal to or greater than conventional plastics and are unlikely to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean.

Access to straws for people with disabilities

Some people with disabilities find it difficult or impossible to drink without a straw, and plastic straws meet their needs better than paper or metal straws. Even if you would like to eliminate plastic straws entirely, please keep a small supply to provide when requested.

WHAT YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS TO DO

Table service: You can only provide plastic straws, stirrers, or splash sticks if a customer requests them. 

Counter service: Dine-in or take-out

In situations where customers order their food at a counter, food cart, or cafeteria line, you cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, or splash sticks with a customer’s order. Plastic straws, stirrers or splash sticks must be kept behind the counter and can only be provided if a customer requests them. 

Grab and Go: Convenience stores, grocery stores, delis and other establishments where customers get their own food or beverage and then pay a cashier.

Plastic straws, stirrers or splash sticks must be kept behind the counter and can only be provided if a customer requests them.

Drive-through, take-out, online orders, and delivery apps: 

You may not include plastic straws, stirrers, or splash sticks with a customer’s order unless they specifically request them.

Self-Service: If your business offers a self-service station for customers where they can currently get a plastic straw, stirrer or splash stick themselves, these items must be removed from these stations and placed behind a counter where the customer can request them if desired. Wrapped plastic straw alternatives (such as paper, bamboo, or sugar cane), and non-plastic stirrers and splash sticks may be provided on self-service stations until January 1, 2021. As of that date all straws, stirrers, and splash sticks must be requested by the customer. 

Note: Your business is responsible for following this policy, even if the customer orders through a third-party app. If a customer is given these plastic items without being asked, your business will be out of compliance.

SIGNS FOR CUSTOMERS

We suggest (but do not require) posting a sign to let customers know they need to ask for these items.  The City has developed a sign with details about the ordinance to utilize if you wish. Download sign.

PENALTIES

Starting April 1, 2020, businesses found in violation of the policy will receive: 

  1. A fine not exceeding $100 for the first violation in a one-year period; 
  2. A fine not exceeding $200 for the second and each subsequent violation in a one-year period.  

To report an out-of-compliance business contact akrulik@portlandmaine.gov or 207-874-8663. 

MORE ABOUT THE POLICY

Purpose of the policy: To reduce plastic litter and to reduce the use of energy and resources, including fossil fuels, needed to make items that are only used once.

How businesses were notified: The City of Portland sent food-related businesses notification letters in January 2020 prior to the public hearing before the Sustainability and Transportation Committee.  Local media provided extensive coverage of the issue in advance of the City Council vote. 

How businesses benefit: Businesses can save money by reducing the quantities of single-use items provided to customers. Customers also want less disposable plastic. 

QUESTIONS?

Call 207-874-8663 or email akrulik@portlandmaine.gov