California First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday inked legislation aimed at breaking society’s “infatuation” with plastic straws.

Beginning in 2019, California’s full-service or dine-in restaurants can only give plastic straws to customers upon request. After two warnings, restaurant owners would be fined $25 per day for violations with a maximum of $300 in fines per calendar year. Fast-food and takeout restaurants are exempt from Assembly Bill 1884.

Fourth-term Gov. Brown hopes the measure will help change consumer habits and simultaneously clean up the world’s oceans.

“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Brown said in a signing letter. “One thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”

Plastic straws are one of the most commonly found items during beach cleanups in California, according to state regulators. The bill mirrors those in cities like Davis and Malibu with “straw-upon-request” policies.

Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, says his bill is aimed at changing restaurants’ “default behavior” of handing out straws with every drink.

“It’s a small but significant step forward and will hopefully set the precedent for the rest of the nation to adopt similar policies that will ensure less plastic ends up harming the environment,” Calderon said in a statement.

The measure builds on a plastic bag ban approved by California voters in 2016. Proposition 67 requires grocery stores and other retailers to charge customers at least 10 cents per bag.

Calderon’s measure cleared the Legislature in a series of mostly party-line votes, with Republicans largely voting against it.

State Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, voted against the proposal, saying that he would rather allow consumers and businesses to ditch plastic on their own.

“I’m very concerned about having a mandate come from the state that would impact businesses,” Gaines said in August.

Brown signed a total of 40 bills Thursday and vetoed six, including a measure that would have set start times at middle and high schools to no earlier than 8:30 a.m. He disagreed with a “one-size-fits-all approach” and wants to allow communities and school districts to continue setting their own schedules.

The California Teachers Association and the California School Boards Association opposed Senate Bill 328.

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