There's a new wrinkle in the old debate about banning plastic straws.
In early November, the city government in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., on the Gulf of Mexico, repealed its 2017 law banning plastic straws and replaced it with an ordinance requiring that straws given out in food service must be marine biodegradable.
What it means is that biodegradable plastic can now be used, along with paper. So if you find that paper straws get too soggy, this is for you.
The Fort Myers Beach decision sets up a debate that I wonder if we'll see at more city halls, as materials like castor oil-based polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) polymer are commercialized.
Some parts of the plastics industry, like packaging maker WinCup Inc., hope other cities change their plastic straw bans to allow for what they say are home compostable, biodegradable materials like PHA.
WinCup calls it an "ecologically superior" material to the petroleum plastic straw.
"Our hope is that coastal communities across the country will follow Fort Myers Beach's lead by ensuring their straw ban policies are as strong as possible by allowing ecologically superior alternatives to petro plastic, like PHA," WinCup CEO Brad Laporte said in a statement.
Florida's local straw bans have been controversial, and Fort Myers Beach's ordinance doesn't seem very detailed on defining what is biodegradable.
But another maker of compostable PHA straws, UrthPact LLC, notes that Charleston, S.C.'s plastic straw ban specifically allows plant-based materials that meet the ASTM D6400 or D6868 standards and carry certification from the Biodegradable Products Institute.
Biodegrability is a complex topic and for now, it seems like Charleston and Fort Myers Beach are in a minority among cities. But will this be the new trend in plastic straw laws? Time will tell.