A bill proposed in California would make it illegal for restaurant servers to give guests plastic straws unless requested — with the threat of a $1,000 fine or jail time attached.
Ian Calderon, the Democratic assemblyman who introduced the bill this month, stressed it does not constitute a ban on drinking straws. Should it progress into law, he said, the penalties would be nixed through amendments.
“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, majority leader of California's lower house, said in a statement.
The bill would tack the rule onto already existing code, the violation of which carries a fine between $25 and $1,000, up to six months in county jail, or both, "except as otherwise provided." It would only apply to sit-down restaurants, not bars or fast food locations.
Calderon set out to defend the bill on Twitter, claiming amendments would be added remove the possibility of a fine or jail time for handing out straws.
"The penalties are attached to the code section the bill is currently in. That will change," the lawmaker said. "Amendments are part of the legislative process."
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.— Ian C. Calderon (@IanCalderon) January 26, 2018
Still, some online critics had questions.
"What about those little umbrellas that go in drinks, why aren't you criminalizing that?" user @KeithOsmun said. "What about when they give me too many napkins?"
But Calderon's proposal is not novel: Dine-in restaurants in Davis, Calif., must already ask customers if they want a straw thanks to an ordinance adopted last year. San Luis Obispo's city council approved a similar rule thereafter.
Straws and stirrers were the sixth most commonly collected item during California's Coastal Cleanup Day from 1989 to 2014, the lawmaker claimed in a release, noting that restaurant straws are used once before becoming non-biodegradable trash.
And Calderon's is not the only bill targeting drinking plastics. Assembly Bill 319 would require all single-use plastic bottles to have their caps tethered or otherwise affixed.
“AB 1884 is not ban on plastic straws," Calderon said in the statement. "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.”