California One Step Closer to Restricting Plastic Straws

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Taking a sip of your drink at local restaurants and fast food joints across the Golden State will have to be done without a straw – unless you request one – if legislation approved Thursday by lawmakers is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill, which restricts the distribution of plastic straws by restaurants, was approved in a 45-20 vote by the California State Assembly, having already been approved Monday by the State Senate.

The governor has not indicated if he will sign. In 2014, Brown signed a bill banning single-use plastic bags at food markets, liquor stores and pharmacies.

If Assembly Bill 1884 is signed into law, California would be the first in the country to adopt a statewide ban on plastic straws at sit-down restaurants.

Full-service restaurants that violate the law more than twice would be fined $25 each day they’re in violation but only up to a maximum $300, according to the bill. Restaurants would instead be allowed to offer paper or metal straws.

The bill, introduced Jan. 17 by California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, was not opposed by restaurant and business lobby groups.

The Plastics Industry Association, the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Restaurant Association have maintained a neutral stance on the bill.

The marketing analysis firm Technomics found that Americans use 175 million straws each day. Many of them end up in bodies of water and on beaches.

They aren’t only an eyesore, they can eventually make their way into the tissue of marine life that humans eat, according to a state environmental analysis of the bill.

The report said 25 percent of fish examined by researchers in California, New Jersey and Indonesia contained plastic in their flesh.

Plastic straws have become a flashpoint at city council meetings and in company boardrooms even though they don’t factor greatly into the global plastic waste crisis.

University of Georgia researchers said in April that plastic straws make up 2,000 tons of the nearly 9 million tons of plastic waste that ends up in the Earth’s bodies of water each year.

In July, global coffee titan Starbucks announced it will eliminate plastic straws from all of its locations by 2020, the largest food and beverage company to do so.

A number of California cities – including coastal enclaves San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Malibu – have already moved to ban plastic straws from their jurisdictions.

Malibu also adopted ordinances over the years banning polystyrene containers and plastic sand bags within city limits, along with plastic cutlery and stirrers at restaurants and fast food joints.

The California Coastal Commission has recorded roughly 835,425 plastic straws and stirrers collected between 1988 and 2014 during organized coastal cleanups.

Using trash collected at beach cleanups over five years, a pair of Australian scientists estimated that 7.5 million plastic straws are laying around the country’s shorelines.

A 2016 World Economic Forum report found that, if current trends hold, there will be more plastic than fish, by weight, in oceans by 2050.

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