Talk about a “straw man argument”!
Today, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1884, which will prohibit dine-in restaurants from automatically providing plastic straws to customers. The new law requires customers who want a plastic straw to request one; restaurants that provide without being asked face potential fines of $25 per day. The Governor says being requiring diners to ask “might make them pause and think again about an alternative” to the single-use straw.
The law’s author, Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), echoing the sentiment of the Governor in an attempt to change customer behavior, said, “We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans. AB 1884 is not a ban on plastic straws but simply a way for consumers to change their behavior regarding the use of single-use plastic straws.”
While this new law stops short of an outright ban, many localities in California have already adopted local ordinances implementing some type of prohibition on restaurants from providing plastic straws. In what some call a growing movement, Alameda, Carmel, Can Luis Obispo, Davis, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley have all adopted a plastic straw ban. Other local ordinances mirror AB 1884 by requiring customers to ask.
This isn’t the first time the California Legislature and Governor have taken aim at attempting to reduce the use of plastic. In 2014, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed SB 270 (Padilla, de Leon, Lara) that put Proposition 67, the statewide Single-Use Carryout Bag Ban, on the ballot. Californians approved the Proposition, which banned grocery stores, retail stores with a pharmacy, convenience stores, food marts, and liquor stores from being able to provide single-use carry-out bags to their customers. Instead, the stores can provide a reusable grocery bag or recycled paper bag to a customer for 10 cents per bag.
Furthermore, in 2015, the California Water Resources Control Board implemented emergency regulations to prohibit restaurants from serving water unless requested by the customer. This was imposed as California was entering its fourth year of severe drought.
What’s the real impact? According to a legislative committee analysis, “AB 1884 would do little to curb the amount of plastic that is disposed of on a daily basis. Requiring a consumer to ask for a straw is not going to change consumer behavior. The low penalty amounts will do nothing to discourage food facilities from providing single-use plastic straws to its consumers. And, the large number of facilities exempt from its provisions, many of which are the largest contributors of plastic pollution, leaves behind such a small category of food facilities that it becomes questionable exactly what level of impact this bill would have. If the state wants to truly reduce plastic pollution from straws, legislation should have an actual impact – and that means implementing an actual ban on single-use plastic straws and having penalties and enforcement provisions in place that will actually motivate people to comply. As written, AB 1884 does so little that it is not likely to provide significant environmental protection.”
Acknowledging that this “is a very small step” in curtailing the use of plastic, the Governor nonetheless put his pen in motion and signed the bill noting that plastic “has become so ubiquitous it now pervades every aspect of our modern life.”
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