D.C. Pays ‘Plastic Straw Cop’ $60,000 Salary to Enforce City’s Straw Ban

EU countries back single-use plastics ban
AFP/JOEL SAGET

The city of Washington, DC, is taking drastic measures to ensure that no restaurant in the city uses plastic straws, spending $60,000 per year to pay a “plastic straw cop” to monitor restaurants which stray from the rules.

D.C. Department of Energy and Environment inspector Zach Rybarczyk, the city’s hand-picked straw monitor, has been patrolling area restaurants to ensure their straws are paper and not plastic ever since the city’s plastic straw ban went into effect at the beginning of January, the Washington Post reported Monday.

Rybarczyk’s services do not come cheap. According to a document on salary information from D.C.’s Department of Human Resources, Rybarczyk takes home $60,472 per year as an environmental protection specialist and has been on the D.C. government’s payroll since April 2017

Since the ban went into effect, Rybarczyk wasted no time trying to track down any restaurants still using plastic straws. He told one cashier at the Lotus Express in Union Station that the store would face $800 in fines if they were caught using plastic straws again in July.

Rybarczyk, who told the Post he carries a metal straw around for personal use, said he is merely giving local businesses “a heads up” with his warnings before he starts giving out fines.

“Obviously there will be some holdouts until July, when we start issuing fines. But it’s most fair to give businesses a heads up,” he said.

But District residents are already eyeing the plastic straw ban with disdain. While Rybarczyk was explaining the city ordinance to a Sakura Japan cashier at Union Station, one customer waiting for his lunch decried the ban as “stupid.”

“What, is this California now?” said one customer, who declined to be identified. “All these laws are just spreading from California. Everything is getting taken away from us, man. This is so stupid.”

D.C. is the latest jurisdiction to ban plastic straws, following the lead of Seattle and San Francisco— both of which have instituted similar bans.

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