California restaurants could only provide plastic straws to customers upon request if Gov. Jerry Brown signs a measure now headed to his desk.
Assembly Bill 1884 — which covers full-service dining, but not takeout establishments like fast-food restaurants — was approved 45-20 in the Assembly on Thursday. It aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution, according to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, a Whittier Democrat who carried the legislation.
“This is a small step that isn’t a ban that can help us curb the issue of single-use plastics in our environment — the getting in our ocean, our waterways and our landfills,” Calderon said on the Assembly floor. “These are not easily recyclable materials.”
Plastic straws and stirrers are the sixth-most common item found at beach cleanup days, according to the California Coastal Commission, with more than 835,000 picked up between 1988 and 2016. Several California cities have already adopted ordinances similar to AB 1884, including Manhattan Beach, which in June banned plastic straws, stirrers and utensils completely.
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Under the measure, businesses would receive a warning for their first two violations, then a $25 fine each day they are in violation after that, up to $300 annually. Restaurant groups in California did not take a position on the bill, but it was widely mocked in conservative circles as ridiculous and unnecessary.
“When I take my wife out to eat and we sit down and finally have a chance to get away from the kids, I’m not looking for a lecture on straws and ocean health and an interruption of the ambiance,” Assemblyman Devon Mathis, R-Visalia, said. “Let us enjoy those meals with our loved ones.”