Davis diners may soon find they’ll have to request a plastic straw to come with their drink.
A proposed ordinance would require that servers at dine-in restaurants ask customers if they want a straw for their drink, rather than automatically offering one.
The restriction is part of the city’s ongoing effort to conserve resources and reduce pollution to meet its zero waste goal, according to the ordinance. The proposal will likely be approved by the Davis City Council on June 6, according to assistant Public Works director Stan Gryczko.
The ordinance comes just one month after Davis banned businesses from using polystyrene foam – commonly referred to as Styrofoam – for food and beverage containers.
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“This was just another way as a community to show that we’re conscious about the environment and that small things can make a difference,” Gryczko said.
He does not expect restaurants to suffer financially by the new ordinance. But for Christian Marquez, owner and manager of Taqueria Guadalajara Grill, the change marks just another rule in a growing list of Davis restaurant restrictions.
“Straws are not a big deal, we can limit the straws, but the bigger deal is banning Styrofoam,” Marquez said. “I get it, I’m all for it. Some people understand, but some other people don’t.”
Plastic straws are currently accepted for recycling in Davis. But most people tend to throw their straws into the trash, said University of North Carolina Wilmington professor Susanne Brander, whose doctoral research at UC Davis focused on chemicals associated with plastics and their effect on marine life.
According to the National Park Service, Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. Even when people do recycle them, Brander said, straws are lightweight and can be easily picked up and blown away from recycling bins.
“A lot of the plastic in the ocean aren’t people going to the coastline and dumping their trash, it’s blowing in there by accident,” she said. “Then it’s broken down into smaller pieces and being consumed.”
Fast-food and take-out food orders, however, are exempt from the ordinance. Gryczko said the city has no plans at this point to expand the ordinance to apply to these businesses.
According to Councilwoman Rochelle Swanson, who initially proposed the straw ordinance, the exemption is “common sense.” She added, “Do you want to go through a drive-thru and not get a straw?”
The requirements would go into effect Sept. 1 if approved.