California is officially the first state to pass a statewide ban against plastic straws.
Specifically, the new law prohibits full-service, dine-in restaurants from giving out disposable plastic straws unless requested to do so by customers. The idea is to prompt people to use something else instead.
“It might make them pause and think again about an alternative,” Governor Jerry Brown wrote.
Governor Brown called the new law a “very small step” to reduce plastic waste. Violators of the new law face fines of $25 per day for each day the restaurant is in violation.
The anti-straw movement has been around for over a decade now, but things really picked up steam in 2015, when a string of videos of marine life with straws stuck in their nostrils went viral. In response, advocates have pushed to ban plastic straws, prompting several individual cities to do so.
California is the first to institute a statewide ban.
Several cities in California have already banned plastic straws, including San Francisco, Davis, and Malibu. Many legislators are calling the new statewide policy a “win.”
Seattle recently passed a ban of its own, and other cities are considering doing the same.
In recent months, several companies have also resolved to drop plastic straws, including Starbucks, Marriott, Hyatt, and American Airlines.
These decisions came largely in response to environmental advocates. In recent years, they’ve successfully brought public attention to how harmful plastic straws can be for marine life.
According to the California Coastal Commission, straws are the sixth-most-common item found during beach cleanups.
Over 9 million plastic straws and stirrers have been collected from beaches and waterways over the past three decades, according to Ocean Conservancy.
And those straws often end up harming marine life by becoming lodged in their bodies.
They also pollute the ocean, which is already dangerously full of plastic.
By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
So yes, there are plenty of great reasons not to use disposable straws — or at least use fewer of them. As one California lawmaker put it: It’s the plastic.
Importantly, California’s new law doesn’t prevent people from requesting plastic straws if they need them.
As disability advocates have pointed out, many people actually need to use plastic straws.
And of course, straws are just one of many types of plastics that are still widely used, including plastic utensils, plastic cups and lids, plastic bags, and more.
A recent poll showed that most Americans would like to see businesses limit straw use, rather than institute an all-out ban.
Next time you go to a restaurant, consider skipping the straw (just think about all the marine life you’ll be helping).