This California lawmaker introduced a bill to reduce plastic straw use

Environmental groups say that up to 500 million plastic beverage straws are used every day in the United States, and a California lawmaker is drawing up plans to stop the flow of damage to the environment. [Hellen Sergeyeva | Dreamstime/TNS]
Environmental groups say that up to 500 million plastic beverage straws are used every day in the United States, and a California lawmaker is drawing up plans to stop the flow of damage to the environment. [Hellen Sergeyeva | Dreamstime/TNS]
Published Jan. 29, 2018

Campaigns have sprung up along the east and west coasts of the United States to crack down on a threat they say is highly detrimental to marine environments — plastic straws.

It's an effort that's not new to Pinellas County.

California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon introduced Assembly Bill 1884 on Jan. 17, which would make plastic straws strictly on-demand request at dine-in restaurants.

"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, a Democratic lawmaker from Whittier, Calif., said in a press release on Jan. 18. "AB 1884 is not 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."

Because of the current California Retail Food Code, a violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $25 to $1,000 for each offense, up to 6 months in a county jail or both, according to the bill.

One vocal opponent of the bill, California Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach, Calif., lambasted the bill for potential government overreach.

California Democrat Leader Ian Calderon wants to ban PLASTIC STRAWS. Is there any part of your life that Democrats don't want to control? As Governor, this is exactly the type of legislation that I will VETO

Six months in jail for a straw. This is today's California Democrat Party. Don't like it? SEND ALL YOUR USED AND NEW STRAWS TO:@IanCalderon
Democrat Assemblyman
13181 Crossroads Parkway North, Ste 160
City of Industry, CA 91746-3497
Tel: (562) 692-5858

Calderon took to Twitter to address concerns of the punishments, saying that the intention behind the bill is to deter the use of straws, not to put restaurant employees behind bars.

I'd like to clarify that #AB1884 (Straws Upon Request) is (a) NOT a ban; (b) should it become law, it will NOT make it a crime for servers to provide plastic straws. My intention is simply to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic straws on our environment.

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No, not really. The penalties are attached to the code section the bill is currently in. That will change. Amendments are part of the legislative process.

Calderon further outlined his reasoning behind the bill in the press release.

"Plastic is a material that lasts forever, yet 33 percent of all plastics are used just once and thrown away. Only 9% of all plastics are recycled, but due to their small size and lack of a resin code, no straws are ever recycled," the release read.

When plastic straws end up in the water, they break down into micro-sized pieces that often end up being consumed by marine life, the release added.

A Treasure Island mom had a similar idea to Calderon when she started grassroots movement in 2015 with the goal of eliminating the use of plastic straws in Treasure Island.

RELATED: Treasure Island decides not to ban plastic straws on the beach

In a viral Facebook post, Julie Featherston took a photo of herself with a fistful of sandy straws in front of Caddy's on the Beach that received thousands of shares. She later started a petition that gathered hundreds of signatures.

Eventually, Caddy's on the Beach changed its straw policy in 2015. Servers were now required to only give straws if customers requested them. In 2017, the restaurant moved to "biodegradable straws" according to Featherston's Facebook post.

Treasure Island commissioners ultimately decided in 2016 against an outright ban on straws in the city, believing it to be too strict.

Instead, they opted to give businesses a six-month period to voluntarily stop using plastics and cited that many local businesses had already adopted the use of paper straws.

Featherston told the Tampa Bay Times in 2016