Washington, D.C., will begin enforcing its ban on plastic straws on Jan. 1, which would penalize churches for offering free coffee if it comes with a stirrer.
The Department of Energy and Environment tweeted Thursday that Mayor Muriel Bowser has a "list of recyclables and compostables" banning plastic straws and stirrers.
.@MayorBowser‘s list of recyclables and compostables now requires the use of compostable and/or reusable straws and stirrers when selling food or beverages in the District. Enforcement begins January 1, 2019! See all foodservice ware requirements https://t.co/Nr0UUoNENr pic.twitter.com/Z4kJBqJipF
— Department of Energy and Environment (@DOEE_DC) November 15, 2018
However, businesses, churches, and nonprofits can hand out straws and coffee stirrers if they are made from hay.
"On January 1, 2019, new restrictions on the use of single-use plastic straws and stirrers will take effect," according to the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.
"DOEE will begin inspecting businesses for compliance with the District's single-use straw and stirrer requirements on January 1st, 2019," the department said. "DOEE will issue fines for violations of the ban on single-use plastic straws and stirrers beginning July 1, 2019. DOEE is currently assisting regulated entities with achieving compliance through outreach and education."
The District also is asking residents to report businesses or churches to the government if they hand out free straws or coffee stirrers.
"DOEE solicits tips from the public and conducts regular inspections," the department said. "After the period of compliance assistance has ended for the compostable and recyclable food service ware requirements, DOEE may issue warnings and fines for violations."
The plastic straw ban was proposed in July, but the D.C. City Council is now implementing the ban through the 2014 "Sustainable D.C. Omnibus Amendment Act," which banned Styrofoam and other "non-recyclable, non-compostable single-use food containers."
Democratic council member Mary Cheh acknowledges that legislation "did not explicitly ban plastic straws," ABC's WJLA reported earlier this year. "But she thinks this new bill is somewhat redundant."
"The mayor right now could say, ‘Get on with it,'" Cheh said.
Now plastic straws and stirrers will be banned Jan. 1.
The Department of Energy and Environment said the ban would apply to businesses or organizations that "sell or provide food or beverages." This includes bars, delis, cafes, cafeterias, carryouts, food trucks, restaurants, grocery stores, and daycare providers.
In addition, even groups that "provide free coffee to clients" can now be subject to fines if they offer a stirrer.
"Churches that offer coffee or food to parishioners after a service, and non-profit organizations that host events and provide food for attendees" are subject to the ban, the department said.
An enforcement flier circulated by the D.C government said businesses, restaurants, and churches can now offer straws made out of bamboo, hay, or stainless steel instead.
"[T]he Mayor's List of Recyclables and Compostables requires the use of compostable and/or reusable straws and stirrers when serving and selling food or beverages in the District," the flyer states.
"Compliant products for use in the district include but are not limited to: paper, bamboo, hay, Stainless Steel, Glass—PLA (BPI-Certified)," the government said.