Getty: Monty Rakusen

Restaurateurs could face fines if they continue to make straws readily available.

Zee Krstic
August 27, 2018

After Starbucks announced that they would start serving their drinks without their hallmark green straws, Americans took notice: Labeled as an environmental disaster, plastic straws are vanishing from nearly every business that once offered the ubiquitous tool free of charge.

City officials in places like Seattle have even instituted new rules prohibiting straws. But California has become the first state to officially regulate the distribution of little plastic tubes. Specifically, the food service industry is being banned from making plastic straws available unless they are requested.

The new law comes with a stipulation that servers provide a straw, plastic or otherwise, for patrons who ask for one, much to the relief of those who can't easily consume a drink without a straw.

According to the Los Angeles Times, lawmakers have passed a new bill which makes it illegal for California business owners to serve beverages touting plastic straws, and if they do, they'll be subject to a warning before receiving daily fines of $25.

The new bill largely exempts fast-food chains and fast-casual restaurants, however—which leaves many lawmakers asking for more restrictions against those non-local chains, where straws are most used. Blake Kopcho, a representative for the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, said that California's new bill should have mandated that all straws be made of biodegradable material at the very least, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The latest news on plastic bans in the food industry:

Like Seattle, there are some cities in California that have already instituted their own bans and restrictions—restaurants in Davis have to ask customers explicitly if they would like a straw before serving them one, thanks to a new ordinance.

There's a similar rule in San Luis Obispo, San Diego, Huntington Beach, and Berkeley too, meaning that some of California's residents have already become accustomed to certain restrictions. Cities like Miami, New York, and London are also restricting access to straws unless asked.

Ian Calderone, the Democratic assemblyman who re-introduced the bill this summer after an initial draft suggested jailing those who doled out plastic straws, claims that straws and stirrers were the sixth-most commonly collected item at California's annual Coastal Cleanup Day from 1989 to 2014.

The standard drinking straw widely circulated in the food industry is not recyclable, the lawmaker says in a release—plastic straws are used once before they're sent to landfills, or end up elsewhere, as non-biodegradable trash.

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