Could Plastic Straws Soon Be Illegal?

January 31, 2018

A new bill proposed in California by State Assemblyman Ian Calderon could be catastrawphic for plastic-straw manufacturers if passed. People are buzzing about a motion that would make straws available only upon request. As the law stands, any server who brings customers a straw without their asking could face six months’ jail time and/or up to $1,000 in fines.

Since the bill was initially introduced in mid-January, there’s been a considerable amount of backlash. Another California politician, Travis Allen, was so miffed by the proposal that he invited his Facebook followers to flood Calderon’s office with new and used straws to convey their disagreement. Calderon, who is a Democrat, has been vocal in the days following the bill’s introduction, claiming that many have misunderstood its original intent. So what exactly is going on with California’s proposed straw ban?

As it turns out, the intense language currently built into the law is only temporary. Calderon assures that when the proposal was initially sent to the state legislative rules committee, the fines and jail time were automatically tacked on because of health and safety-code regulations. He took to Twitter to clarify:

Calderon further clarified that the bill would not extend to include fast-food restaurants, cafés, or delis, nor would it apply to takeout orders. Instead, it’s meant to bring attention and awareness to an environmental issue. Straws are a massive source of pollution, and because they are not recyclable, they either end up in landfills or as litter. Between 1989 and 2014, cleanup crews along California’s coast recorded finding around 736,000 straws and stirrers.

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Can the bill bring about the end of all this trash? First, it has to pass. Until then, follow Calderon as he attempts to change the way we sip.

What do you think of the bill? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Betsey February 2, 2018
It excludes fast food and and other restaurants? Then what even is the point? How about the law says all restaurants CAN'T give you straws unless you ask for them? That would do more than this mindless sticking of straws in every drink.
Leslie B. February 2, 2018
Plastic and plastic straw are a blight on seas and a deadly danger to sea life. There was a time when stats were generally for children and ill people having difficulty drinking. Fast food made them ubiquitous. Large and over iced and too cold drinks requiring a means of actually drinking them. You did not see straws like this in Europe.....until the Starbucks and McDonalds starting invading. Plastic straws should be banned replaced by paper and it wouldn’t hurt if people learned to drink like adults again.
Gigi January 31, 2018
Sorry, but more nanny state (CA I'm looking at you - and I live here) doesn't help. We are not all children and can monitor our behavior without the input from 'well-meaning' politicians at every turn... If people are stupid and throw their garbage on the ground, then they need to be called out that it's unacceptable. I don't want to pay extra for straws...the bag debacle is bad enough. Sigh.
Betsey February 2, 2018
It's got nothing to do with littering. Straws are not recyclable. If you act like a child, you need a nanny.
AliGar January 31, 2018
I'm all for banning the plastic straw. I live on the California coast and have seen the *ugly* plastic straws (or any plastic) leave behind on our beaches and in our ocean. If a restaurant or food provider wants me to cover the cost of a paper straw, so be it. Ridding ourselves of plastic straws sometime in the near future is not soon enough.