Next Year in California, You'll Have to Ask for That Straw

A picture taken on May 24, 2018 shows a woman drinking with a plastic straw.  (PATRICK PLEUL/AFP/Getty Images)

People who want straws with their drinks at California restaurants will have to ask for them under a new state law.

The law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown makes California the first state to bar full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws.

It takes effect next year.

The law doesn't ban plastic straws outright like some cities have.
Restaurants that don't comply will get two warnings before being fined up to $300 per year.

It will apply only to full-service restaurants, not fast food establishments.

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Democratic lawmakers who support the law call it a small step toward reducing ocean pollution.

Environmentalists called it a great step in the right direction.

“Nothing we use for five minutes should end up polluting our environment for thousands of years,” said Dan Jacobson, Director Environment California. “The time to take action on this persistent problem is NOW.”

But critics argue California's new law is government overreach that won't significantly improve the environment. Some say restricting straws hurts disabled people who rely on them.

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In August, Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore said she doesn’t believe the move will reduce pollution but will punish restaurants.

The restaurant industry doesn’t oppose the measure.

The California Coastal Commission has recorded roughly 835,000 straws and stirrers picked up between 1988 and 2014 during beach cleanups.

Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose and leaks toxins into the soil and water.

KQED's Amel Ahmed contributed to this report.

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