Commercial businesses in Afton soon may do away with plastic straws and utensils.
The City Council is expected to vote this month on a draft ordinance to ban noncompostable or nonrecycleable food service items after recently agreeing to develop such a measure.
The ordinance would also ban plastic bags in all commercial activities, including vendors who set up shop at Afton events.
Bill Palmquist, the council member behind the effort, hopes the city’s ordinance will inspire other Minnesota communities to follow suit.
“Afton is known for its beautiful location,” Palmquist said. “I think those who live here and come here are supportive of keeping it that way.”
The movement to eliminate single-use plastic drinking straws has ramped up in recent years. Several cities across the country have implemented bans, and companies big and small have committed to using more eco-friendly options.
Afton’s ordinance would allow restaurants to offer bendable plastic straws to customers with disabilities. It would take effect one year after it passes, allowing time for businesses to find compostable and recyclable options.
Restaurants in Afton already have been open to the change, Mayor Richard Bend said.
“Even though it may add to their bottom-line costs, we are very lucky to have businesses that are eager to do this,” Bend said.
Rebecca Nickerson, owner of Selma’s Ice Cream Parlour in downtown Afton, said she had been looking at compostable utensil options when Palmquist broached the issue. In April, the ice cream shop switched to compostable malt cups and recently has asked its supplier about compostable utensils.
Just as she’s willing to spend a bit extra on more eco-friendly options, the teenagers who spend summers scooping ice cream at Selma’s are willing to do a little extra work to compost and recycle, Nickerson said.
“The next generation is very interested and supportive of this and what they can do to help the environment,” she said.
That commitment is shared by most in Afton, a city of about 3,000, Palmquist said.
As a St. Croix River community, it’s important for the city to protect the waterway, Palmquist said. If the ordinance reduces the amount of plastic he finds on the riverbank when he’s out on a community cleanup, it’ll be a success, he said.
“This is about living our values and being in tune with our environment,” he said. “You can’t fix everything, but you can work on your little part of the world.”