Few inspected restaurants in DC complying with plastic straw ban so far

Environmental inspectors began enforcing the District's new plastic straw ban Tuesday, and so far, there's a lot of room for improvement.

Of the first six restaurants Environmental Protection Specialist Lillian Power inspected inside of Union Station, all six - Shake Shack, Thunder Grill, Le Pain Quotidien, Pret A Manger, Au Bon Pain, and Sbarro - were still using plastic straws.

Overall only six of the 33 restaurants that were inspected provided customers with compliant compostable alternatives.

"The ban has been in effect for like six, seven days now so what we've seen is a mixed bag," Power said.

She added that the city expects compliance rates to increase steadily over the next year, which is what they saw with previous efforts like the 5-cent bag fee and the foam ban.

"D.C. has cared about single-use plastics and their impact on the environment in our city for a long time," Power said. "We're basically continuing that momentum of what can we do to reduce our environmental impact and footprint, and single-use plastic straws are a pollutant in our waterways and we care about that."

As far as what people at Union Station thought of the ban Tuesday, reactions varied.

"If it's bad for the environment, it's gonna save the planet, I'll go along with it," said James Martin.

"Keep the plastic straws," Vonnie Neyhart said, "I don't want paper straws."

The D.C. Department of Energy & Environment won't begin issuing official warnings and fines to businesses until July. Power said the fines will range from $100-$800, depending on the number of violations a business incurs.