Is California Really Trying to Ban Plastic Straws? Here’s What You Need to Know

January 30, 2018, 11:00 AM UTC
Awful Awful Moment
Two teenagers share an Awful Awful ice-cream drink, 1958. (Photo by Bob Barrett/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Photograph by Getty Images

California Assemblyman Ian Calderon is facing outrage and ridicule for proposing a bill (AB1884) that would make straws only available upon request.

As currently written, the bill stipulates that waiters at sit-down restaurants cannot provide plastic straws unless patrons ask for them. If they do not comply, the bill includes misdemeanor penalties, punishable by six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Many have accused the Assemblyman of government overreach and called the proposal absurd.

However, Calderon has reassured Californians that these penalties would not appear in the final version of the bill. He explained that health and safety code penalties were automatically inserted into the bill when he sent it to the state legislative rules committee.

Calderon has continued to try to clarify his position via Twitter, sharing a number of messages to his followers since the bill was introduced on Jan. 18. Most recently, he wrote, “I’d like to clarify that #AB1884 (Straws Upon Request) is (a) NOT a ban; (b) should it become law, it will NOT make it a crime for servers to provide plastic straws. My intention is simply to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic straws on our environment.”

Calderon further explained that the bill would not apply to fast-food restaurants, cafes, delis, or to takeout orders. The bill is not intended to be a plastic straw ban, but rather a means to limit the unnecessary use of straws.

He said that he introduced the bill because there is a need to “create awareness around the issue of one-time use of plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans.”

Calderon cited data that shows an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded everyday in the U.S., and were the sixth most common item collected during California Coastal Cleanup Days between 1989 and 2014. But straws are not recyclable and therefore end up in landfills, oceans, or waterways.

San Luis Obispo and Davis already have city ordinances in place that are similar to Calderon’s bill and have reportedly had no complaints. Meanwhile, Manhattan Beach has a ban on all disposable plastics, and other cities, like Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, are considering bans or limits on plastic straws.

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