Stop – put that straw down!
Well, that might seem a bit extreme, but then California has made another move to restrict its people from the pleasure and convenience of sipping their favorite beverages through a plastic straw. Gov. Jerry Brown just signed a law, AB 1884, prohibiting dine-in restaurants from providing straws unless their customers specifically request them. The bill goes into effect on January 1, 2019.
“It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown said. “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative.”
That’s highly unlikely. When I lived there during one of the worst droughts ever, restaurants were not allowed to provide water unless customers specifically asked for it. This didn’t make me stop to contemplate drinking less water.
While Brown did mention the importance of plastic and all the benefits the material has provided, he emphasized tragic examples such as the whale found in Thailand that had 80 plastic bags in its stomach. “Plastics, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking our planet,” he said.
But, as LN’s James Fite pointed out, “According to the California Coastal Commission, there have been a total of 835,425 straws and stirrers picked up in the 30 years since 1988, which is only about 4% of the debris collected. Banning plastic straws in the U.S. will make absolutely no noticeable difference, other than to inconvenience and irk those who use them.”
The bill initially met with a lot of criticism when it was first introduced because it called for fines and even imprisonment for waiters who distributed straws without being asked for them. This newest rendition however, offers two warnings first and then a much smaller fine. Still, it’s not well-received across the board. For one thing, the bill only applies to dine-in restaurants, yet it’s the fast food chains, drive-through coffee shops, and take out places that contribute the bulk of the straw pollution.
Many Republicans voted against the bill, calling it pretty much worthless. “I just don’t see how this is going to make that much of a difference in reducing the amount of straws in the waterways,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, said. “I think an education campaign makes sense for sure, and I think an incentive-based program makes even more sense.”
California has a decent recycling program, where residents can take their aluminum, glass, and plastics to a recycling center and get cash back for their trash. However, this isn’t the case with straws. “The reason straws aren’t recyclable is because of their size,” said Angel Diaz, district manager for Waste Management. “A straw is, what, a quarter inch?” Apparently, the machines are too big to handle the small plastics – which is also why bottle caps cannot be recycled.
Why not, then, manufacture a machine for the smaller plastics like as bottle caps and straws? Wouldn’t that be a good incentive program? Wouldn’t that be more productive than just banning dine-in restaurants from giving out straws unless asked to do so?
Will Your Soda Cost More?
Opponents of the straw ban claim it causes more pressure on finding alternatives such as bamboo and paper straws.
“There is a massive shortage [of paper straws],” Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association said. “Obviously with a shortage of supply, paper straw prices are going to go up.”
And we all know what that translates to – the consumers will be the ones feeling the pain. Will we be forced to smuggle straws into restaurants now? It’s only a matter of time before the straw ban spreads to other establishments, and possibly eventually an all-out ban on straws altogether. Can’t you just see the straw junkies buying their plastic drinking paraphernalia from the black market? Seedy straw dealers hiding in dark alleys with long trench coats that open to an array of straws on display for their deprived customers. Want a simple clear straw that can be hidden in a purse? I’ve got that. Want a flashy bendy straw? I’ve got that too. The fun, curly straws cost more, but they’re our best sellers for those who want to spite the government.
While Borden thinks the bill is a good idea, she said lawmakers should go after the manufacturers:
“Yes, this is a victory for the environment,” she said. But “why do they always go after the business and not manufacturers who have control over the cost? I think government leaders should be more creative on how they make the industry supply the product. When you make legislation that impacts the supply side, consumers and businesses end up paying more.”
But then, hasn’t that always been the case? We are an economy of supply and demand. With plastic straws being banned, paper and bamboo straws are more in demand, which means manufactures have to make more to keep up. So, Californians, you have a few precious months to start collecting your favorite plastic straws and hoarding them for when the storm hits.