A California bill introduced earlier this month would make a waiter who gave an unrequested plastic straw to a customer subject to jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.
What is the bill?
Ian Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California's lower state house, recently introduced Assembly Bill 1884. If signed into law, the bill would require dine-in restaurant workers not to provide single-use plastic straws to a customer unless the customer asked for them. A worker who gave out straws that were not requested could be found guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to up to 6 months in jail and as much as a $1,000 fine.
In a news release, Calderon’s office characterized the bill as a call on restaurants to adopt a “straws-upon-request policy.”
They argued that straws are a plastic that is used just once and never recycled, and called the bill “a simple way for consumers to change their plastic use behavior.”
“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” Calderon said in a statement. “AB 1884 is not [a] ban on plastic straws. It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”
What do supporters and critics say?
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the bill is short of the ban on plastic straws that some environmental groups want, and would not apply to fast-food or takeout restaurants.
“Really, what’s at stake here is a few moments of convenience creating a yearslong environmental threat,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.
Golden Gate Restaurant Association executive director Gwyneth Borden told the Chronicle that she thinks voluntary efforts to reduce waste would be more effective than a state mandate.
“Not everything needs to be legislated,” Borden said. “The industry will be more creative and innovative if given the opportunity to come up with a solution.”
She also questioned how the bill — if it were to become law — would be enforced.
“Will there be secret straw investigators?” Borden joked.