California Becomes First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants

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California Becomes First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants

California has become the first state to prohibit dine-in restaurants from giving out single-use plastic straws unless customers expressly ask for them. The law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2019, was proposed in order to reduce plastic waste.

“Plastics, in all forms - straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. - are choking our planet.”

The California Assembly sent a bill to this effect to Governor Jerry Brown Thursday; the Governor then signed it into law.

“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Brown writes.

“Plastics, in all forms - straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. - are choking our planet.”

Unlike similar bills in cities like New York, the California law does not ban plastic straws outright. Rather, consumers will have to ask for a straw in order to be given one.

“It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown said. “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative. But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”

Restaurants who do not comply with the law will receive warnings for their first and second violations before being fined $25 a day and up to $300 per year for any subsequent violation.

The law applies only to full-service restaurants, not fast food restaurants.

Some critics of the law note that the policy could cause problems for disabled people who rely on plastic straws. Karin Willison, a travel blogger with cerebral palsy and the disability editor at health website the Mighty, tells The Press Democrat that while the middle ground reached by the California legislature is reasonable, she worries that some restaurants may stop offering plastic straws entirely in order to avoid the possibility of fines.

“Some people who need straws may have an invisible disability or illness, and they should be able to receive a straw without being judged or asked if they ‘really’ need it,” says Willison.

Five hundred million plastic straws are used in the U.S. every day, according to Better Alternatives Now. According to the California Coastal Commission, about 835,000 straws and stirrers were gathered during beach cleanups between 1988 and 2014.

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