A California lawmaker has introduced a new bill that would make it illegal to distribute single-use straws to consumers at restaurants unless specifically requested.
Ian Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California’s lower house, brought forth Assembly Bill 1884, citing environmental protection as a reason to discourage the use of “single use straws,” typically distributed with soft drinks, smoothies, and coffee, which are then disposed of after being used.
“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” Calderon stated in a media release.
“AB 1884 is not a ban on plastic straws,” he added. “It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”
Assembly Bill 1884 aims to update the California Retail Food Code.
The bill notes that the current code “… establishes uniform health and sanitation standards for, and provides for regulation by the State Department of Public Health of, retail food facilities, as defined, and requires local health agencies to enforce these provisions.”
As the law currently stands, punishment for violating the Retail Food Code ranges from paying a fine between $25 – $1,000 or jail time.
“Existing law requires, except as otherwise provided, a person who violates any provision of the code to be guilty of a misdemeanor with each offense punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $1,000, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding 6 months, or by both.”
If passed, the law would modify the code to mark the provision of “single-use plastic straws to consumers unless requested by the consumer,” as a crime.
According to CNN, Americans dispose of 500 million plastic straws each day.
“Conservatively, you can guess that Americans will use on average two plastic straws a day, so 500 million is an accurate estimate. But I challenge you to start paying attention to the straws you get in your iced coffee, smoothies, soda, and cocktails,” said Adrian Grenier of the non-profit Lonely Whale to CNN.
“When I’m in New York or LA the number of plastic straws I receive is often closer to 10 a day,” Grenier added.
Disposable straws are made from fossil fuels, and according to the cable news outlet are rarely recycled due to their small size and the fact that they’re made from several different types of plastic. Straws and stirrers rank at number nine in the top 10 marine debris items, according to The Ocean Conservancy. Eliminating the use of plastic straws has been a growing movement for some time. The “Be Straw Free Campaign” was introduced by Milo Cress in 2011 when he was just 9 years old.
“I noticed that whenever I ordered a drink at a restaurant, it would usually come with a straw in it, and I don’t usually need a straw,” he told CNN.
“This seemed like a huge waste,” Cress continued. “Straws are made of oil, a precious and finite resource. Is making single-use plastic straws, which will be used for a matter of minutes before being tossed away, really what we want to do with this resource?”
Then a resident of Burlington, Vermont, the young activist asked establishments in his hometown to make straws and option for customers – and many complied. While some like Calderon, support changing legislation to modify people’s behavior, others believe that simply offering other options is a better alternative.
Besides not using a straw, reusable straws made from materials such as glass, steel, copper, and bamboo, are becoming popular.
Cress seemed to agree that encouraging consumers to make different choices is a more effective way to make a change.
“I am not out to ban straws,” he told CNN. “I think it’s much more effective to encourage people to make the choice not to use them. Voluntary participation encourages people to spread the word. Forcing people to do things is not always the most effective way to make a change.”