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CA Bans Plastic Straws Except Upon Request at Full-Service Restaurants

Fast food restaurants, coffee shops, and others are excempt

San Francisco Proposes Ban On Plastic Straws Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Starting January 1st, plastic straws will be legally available only upon request at full-service restaurants in California. Governor Jerry Brown signed the new legislation, AB-1884, today. However, the law notably excludes the largest users of plastic straws: Fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, delis, and restaurants serving take-out.

Violations of the law — i.e., serving plastic straws by default — would result in a fine after two warnings. That’s $25 for each day the full-service restaurant is in violation, with fines capped at $300.

In San Francisco, the new state legislation comes after (and will soon be redundant with) a local law banning plastic straws outright everywhere in the city— including places where plastic straws are more commonly used, such as bars and cafe. That city law is due to take effect on July 1, 2019.

Plastic straws, cited as a major source of litter, have been the target of recent banning efforts in California and beyond. Major retailers like Starbucks have their own plans to phase them out, while some disability advocates have pointed to the burden that banning straws can place on people with disabilities.

In light of the new state law, Golden Gate Restaurant Association director Gwyneth Borden imagines that full-service California restaurants — which don’t frequently serve plastic straws to begin with — will add signs to tables or notes on menus indicating that plastic straws are available upon request. Meanwhile, Borden points to the skyrocketing costs of plastic straw alternatives, like sturdy paper straws, that have followed recent bans.

“There’s a huge backlog for paper straws — there’s no way there’s the supply chain [for non-plastic straws] to accommodate the new demand,” she says. “It would be useful if our elected officials would work with suppliers — as it is, the onus is always on the end user, the restaurant.”