By California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon (D-Whittier), author of Assembly Bill 1884, which calls upon dine-in, full service restaurants to have a straws-upon-request policy.
The California Coastal Commission has recorded roughly 835,425 plastic straws and stirrers collected between 1988 and 2014 during organized coastal cleanups. This data does not include straws picked up inland or around California’s lakes and waterways.
While most plastics can be recycled, the vast majority of these single-use plastic straws are often discarded and can’t be recycled due to the complicated resin code and small size, which can damage the sorting machinery. Nearly every piece of plastic straw ever made is still in existence.
Sadly, these non-biodegradable plastic straws often end up in our oceans and waterways, where they break down into smaller, micro-sized pieces. Plastic waste discarded into the environment damages our ecosystems and marine animals. It also contaminates our food supply and can lead to chemical leaching. Evidence now shows that food and drinks meant for human consumption are contaminated with plastic. For example, researchers at UC Davis found that one-quarter of the fish from markets in California and Indonesia contained plastic debris.
How can we help consumers phase out this type of behavior? In order to address the issue, we can start within the food industry. Diners and consumers should not be given a straw by default but rather be able to request one. AB 1884 will give Californians the opportunity to make a deliberate small change that would reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic straws that get discarded into our oceans, waterways, landfills, and environment. This measure also serves as a catalyst to get people thinking about their overall plastic consumption and ask themselves, “do I really need this?”
Currently, there is no law in California allowing consumers at dine-in, full service restaurant establishments the option to request a single-use plastic straw. However, some cities in California have adopted city-wide ordinances to have a straws-upon-request policy and several cities are currently exploring the same proposal. Recently, the European Commission proposed a ban on a multitude of single-use plastic items, including straws, in order to reduce marine pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.
The proliferation of plastic pollution in our state is of grave concern. We must take action and AB 1884 is a small but important step forward.