Seminole Tribe to phase out plastic straws at casinos

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As government officials and companies make shifts toward environmentally-minded efforts, it appears there is a new endangered species: the drinking straw.

The gaming arm of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Seminole Gaming, announced Thursday that they will be phasing out plastic drinking straws by the end of the month.

In a release sent Thursday, Seminole Gaming said that plastic straws will be phased out of their six casinos, including Seminole Casino Immokalee, by Sept. 1, as well as a shift to only paper to-go bags, in an effort to go more eco-friendly.

“Seminole Gaming has a long history of sustainability programs, and we are pleased to add more earth-friendly straws and to go bags to the list,” said Tracy Bradford, Senior Vice President of Purchasing.  “Seminole Gaming restaurants already utilize reusable, recyclable or eco-friendly to go containers.  As the gaming operation of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Seminole Gaming is proud to help make a difference in conscientious sustainability practices – it’s the right thing to do.”

Banning of plastic straws has long been a battleground for environmental activists, claiming that the single-use straws create unnecessary waste and litter than can harm wildlife, but the momentum behind eliminating the straws has grown rapidly in recent months.

Several major brands, including Starbucks, Aramark, American Airlines, and the Marriott chain of hotels, have announced their plans to phase out plastic straws.

Fort Myers Beach became the first municipality in Southwest Florida to ban plastic straws in February, while Sanibel followed suit in July.

Several major cities have also banned the straws, notably San Francisco, while Seattle banned plastic utensils in addition to straws last month. Most penalties for breaking the straw ban, such as in Fort Myers Beach, come in the form of fines, but in Santa Barbara, Calif., a repeat offender could face jail time.

“Jail time or stiff fines are not the intent for first-time offenders,” Santa Barbara’s Environmental Services Outreach Coordinator Bryan Latchford told KEYT-TV.

“Rarely do we need to issue warning notices, much less administrative fines for infractions.”

In many cases, businesses that are moving away from the plastic straws have shifted to biodegradable paper-based straws instead.

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