California's New Law Bans Restaurants From Giving Out Plastic Straws Automatically

A recently passed law will prevent California full-service restaurants from giving out single-serve straws to customers. According to Fox News, the bill was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday and is meant to help reduce ocean pollution. However, the law will not go into effect until next year. It will reportedly not apply to fast-food restaurants.

Though the law will not ban straws completely, several cities within the state, like San Francisco and Santa Barbara, have banned plastic straws completely. The law signed by Gov. Brown would mean that customers wanting a plastic straw must ask for one. If a restaurant fails to comply, they will be first be given two warnings. If they are still found to be non-compliant, the restaurant will be fined $300 per year.

Assemblyman Ian Calderon of Whittier is the author of the bill and says that it allows consumers to be more deliberate with their choices and allows them to make a "small change that will minimize the harmful impacts of single-use plastic straws in the environment," according to NBC News.

Gov. Brown released a statement about the law on Thursday.

"Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences. Plastics, in all forms -- straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. -- are choking the planet."
The plastic ban has drawn much criticism from people who feel that "the legislation is government overreach," and it "won't significantly improve the environment." Others say that the law "hurts disabled people who rely on them." According to Scott DeFife, the Vice President of Government Affairs at Plastics Industry Association, the solution to cleaning the environment is to look into "recycling and waste management" not "banning a specific product," according to NBC News.

California is the latest state to enact the plastic straw ban. In Washington, cities like Seattle and Edmonds have limited the distribution of straws, as has Miami Beach and Ft. Myers in Florida. New York City is also considering a plastic straw ban, and Starbucks has promised to completely eliminate plastic straws by 2020.

It is reported that annual plastic consumption is currently "448 million tons." Most of the plastic waste ends up in the sea. As the Southern California environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay says, beverage related waste accounts for nearly 40 percent of all waste found in the environment. Heal The Bay's spokesman, Matthew King, also said that "Single-use plastic not only trashes California's world-class shorelines [but it also] kills marine life."

He cites the bill signed in place by Gov. Brown on Thursday as a victory.