Charlie Caramihalis, owner of Fat Tomato Grill in York Village, stands in the doorway of the popular sandwich shop. He supports the newly approved town ordinance that will ban single-use plastic straws and utensils, but said that it will be a challenge for small businesses to find affordable alternatives. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

York has become the first town in Maine to ban single-use plastic utensils, straws and stir sticks.

Residents on Saturday voted 2,192 to 1,556 to prohibit straws, stir sticks and utensils at stores, restaurants, coffee shops, caterers, cafeterias, food delivery services and at town-sponsored events starting in May 2025. Health care facilities are exempt, but are encouraged to comply.

“It’s amazing to see there was so much support,” said Chloe Whitbread, a York High School junior who helped craft the ordinance as part of the high school’s Eco Club.

“It’s going to make a really big impact in town.”

Charlie Caramihalis, owner of the Fat Tomato Grill in York Village, said Monday that he doesn’t use plastic straws at his sandwich shop, but he will have to find an alternative for plastic utensils. Alternatives to plastic can cost up to twice as much, he said.

“I hope customers remember that some prices may need to be passed on” by small-business owners, he said. “But I’m happy to do my share to help the planet.”



The idea of eliminating the use of single-use plastics came from Eco Club members who wanted to implement changes that would help the environment and continue York’s commitment to environmental leadership.

The students also saw it as a social and environmental justice issue because the manufacturing of plastics disproportionately burdens people of color. Petrochemical plants are disproportionately located in communities of color, single-use products are popular in underserved communities because prices of those products are kept artificially low, and communities of color have historically been targeted for landfill and incineration sites.

The ordinance developed by the students originally included takeout containers and cups. It also called on businesses to use and compost recyclable containers. The select board didn’t support it as initially presented by the students, however, and instead formed a committee that included restaurant owners and others in the community to work on refining it.

York High School juniors Chloe Whitbread, left, Maxine Adelson and Aidan Ring outside of school on Monday. The three students make up the Plastic Reduction Task Force, part of the school’s Eco Club, that worked on an ordinance that bans single-use plastic straws and utensils in town. The ordinance was approved by voters Saturday and goes into effect next May. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Maxine Adelson, 17-year-old junior, said she and other Eco Club members joined the committee and were able to come up with an ordinance that is “more feasible and less hard on local businesses.”

After feedback from restaurant owners about the limited availability of recyclable replacements for plastic containers, the ordinance was changed to focus only on utensils, straws and stir sticks.


Caramihalis is impressed that teenagers took the initiative to create the ordinance. He supports it and will comply, but acknowledged that change may be hard for businesses.

“It’s going to present a challenge for business owners,” he said.


Whitbread and Adelson said they were excited after seeing the results, but weren’t surprised that York voters would support an initiative that protects the environment.

In 2015, York became the first Maine town to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. Four years later, the town banned polystyrene foam food containers. A statewide ban on plastic shopping bags went into effect in 2021.

Portland became the first Maine city to ban the distribution of plastic drinking straws, splash sticks and beverage stirrers starting on Jan. 1, 2021, with exemptions for people with disabilities or a medical need. York’s new ordinance contains similar exemptions for people with disabilities or medical needs.


Now that the York ordinance has been passed, Adelson hopes other towns in Maine and along the East Coast will work on similar initiatives to reduce negative impacts on the environment.

“It’s really exciting and satisfying to see this real change being made,” she said.

Whitbread, 16, was glad to be part of an intergenerational effort to improve the ordinance and create policy change.

“As young people it can seem daunting to make change,” she said. “It starts with one idea.”

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