California Bans All Restaurants From Giving Out Plastic Straws
They're the first state to do so.
By 2019, if Californians want to sip their drinks through plastic straws while dining out, they'll have to ask for them specifically. That's because yesterday, governor Jerry Brown signed a law prohibiting full-service restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless they're requested, saying plastic waste is "choking our planet," the L.A. Times reports. While individual cities like Seattle and San Francisco have promised to eliminate single-use straws, this marks the first state-wide ban (well, almost-ban).
“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Brown wrote in a signing message. He also referenced the dead pilot whale that washed up on a beach in Thailand recently—it was found with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, preventing it from digesting food—and noted that humans aren't immune to the dangers of discarded plastics either, as microplastics have been found in our tap water.
Single-use straws won't totally disappear from the state of California, though. As mentioned above, diners in full-service restaurants will still be able to get them upon request, and fast food establishments (arguably the biggest users of plastic straws), coffee shops, and takeout spots are exempt from the ruling.
Plastic straws have become a hot button issue recently, with fast food giants like Shake Shake and Starbucks promising to do away with them. (The former plans to remove them from all establishments by 2019, while the latter has set 2020 as their target straw-free zone.) Even McDonald's is thinking about joining the movement—the mega-chain's restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland have banned plastic straws entirely, replacing them with paper alternatives, and they're thinking about testing a similar strategy stateside. Meanwhile, Disney—whose theme park guests go through about 175 million straws a year—has also said they'll discontinue their use at all company owned and operated parks (excluding Tokyo Disney) by 2019.
While the negative environmental impact of America's plastic straw use is real (we go through about 500 million of them every day), the straw-free movement isn't without consequences. The new laws concern some in the disabled community, who may not have the arm or hand strength to lift their glasses, and depend on straws for safe drinking.
Additionally, the California measure was opposed by many Republican lawmakers, who see it as a burden on small businesses. “When I take my wife out to eat and we sit down and we finally have a chance to get away from the kids, I’m not looking for a lecture on straws and ocean health,” Assemblyman Devon Mathis told the L.A. Times of the decision, before calling it "an interruption of the ambience."