By Kevin Frazzini
Want to sip your drink through a straw? At many California restaurants, you’ll soon have to ask for one.
A first-in-the-nation law bars dine-in restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless they are requested, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“It’s critical that we reduce the negative effects of plastic pollution,” said Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D), who introduced the legislation. “By removing the default behavior of providing straws with every drink, consumers have an opportunity to make a deliberate, small change that will minimize the harmful impacts of single-use plastic straws in the environment.”
Scientists estimate that plastic in the oceans kills millions of marine animals annually. More than 835,000 plastic straws and stirrers were collected during organized beach cleanups during a quarter-century period ending in 2014, Calderon said, citing the California Coastal Commission.
Some in the disabled community are concerned that limiting access to straws will make life difficult for people who don’t have the arm or hand strength to lift cups and glasses and tilt them for drinking. Travel blogger Karin Willison, who has cerebral palsy, told the Times that the straws-on-request policy is reasonable in principle, but she worries some restaurants may stop offering straws to avoid the risk of penalties.
The law was largely opposed by Republicans in both chambers. Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R) objected to what he said was government overreach and predicted the law would be a burden to 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, and an interruption of the ambience,” he said.
The straw law, which takes effect Jan. 1, exempts fast-food restaurants. Full-service restaurants that don’t comply will get two warnings before being fined up to $300 per year.
Kevin Frazzini is the assistant editor of NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine.