New California Law Seeks to Limit Plastic Waste From Straws


Jane Snider and Audrey Snider

Many cities in California are switching to paper straws. A bill sponsored by Ian Calderon regulating the distribution of straws went to governor Jerry Brown for his approval. The proposed law is a “Straw-On-Request” bill where restaurants and food service businesses would not be able to give out straws unless requested by the customer in an attempt to reduce waste. “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,” said Calderon.
On Thursday, Sept. 21, Governor Jerry Brown officially signed a bill so that you can only receive a straw upon request at food services. California is the first state in the nation to do so.
“It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown said in his signing message for AB 1884. “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative.
Since Jan., when the bill was proposed, 10 cities have put regulations on plastic straws. Seattle was first to regulate drinking-straws followed by California cities including Alameda, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond, Santa Cruz and Berkeley.
This new law will be put into action January 1st. Restaurants that violate this law could pay up to $300 a year or $25 per day.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk switched from plastic to paper straws in late 2017.
“The paper straw change is a good thing because it helps the environment and that’s the main focus at the boardwalk. Although it’s kind of annoying, it’s definitely worth it,” said Yaneth Miranda, a food service employee at the boardwalk.
One of the first stories about plastic straws harming sea life was about a turtle in Costa Rica. The turtle showed up on the shore with something in its nose. Because the straw was lodged in its nose, the turtle was having trouble breathing, but once the straw was removed, the turtle was released back into the ocean.
Starbucks is also in favor of reducing straw waste. Their goal is to “eliminate plastic straws by 2020 from their stores globally.” The company will reduce a total of a billion straws per year with this revision.
The plastic straw issue was introduced after people realized how much trash ends up in the ocean and eventually back to the shoreline. According to the National Park Service, Americans throw away 500 million straws each day or enough to fill over 125 school buses.
One reason many people want to get rid of plastic straws is because there are many plausible substitutes for them. A popular alternative is metal or reusable plastic straws. Out of 153 students surveyed, 108 said that they do not use disposable plastic straws at their homes.
Although there seems to be support for the new laws, people argue that straws are a small portion of trash. According to U.S. News, only 4 percent of trash pieces are straws and therefore people disregard the problem.
The issue of whether plastic straws should be banned or regulated will become a more relevant topic as straw laws are enforced and the public starts to see the effects, if any, on their lives.