News, Culture & Society

California law requires restaurants to ask if customers want a straw

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law on Thursday making California the first state to bar full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws.

Another law he approved requires milk or water to be the default drink sold with kids’ meals at all dining establishments.

But the straw restriction law doesn’t apply to fast food restaurants, allows for multiple warnings before being hit with a citation, and caps the maximum possible fines for being found in violation per year.

Neither law is an outright ban on straws or sugary drinks in kids’ meals, and don’t take effect until the beginning of next year. 

Health inspectors will be responsible for enforcing the law. 

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law on Thursday making California the first state to bar full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws

Some Republicans have called the measures government overreach by the heavily Democratic state, but Democratic lawmakers who support the policy call it a small step toward reducing ocean pollution.

California restaurants that don’t comply with the straw law will get two warnings before being fined.

Lawmakers also changed earlier drafts of the legislation to add a $300 annual fine limit. The law will only apply to sit-down restaurants where customers are waited on by restaurant staff, not fast-food establishments.

The ‘offer first’ idea has been credited as being first introduced by Milo Cress of Burlington, Vermont, when he was only nine years old.

The 'offer first' idea has been credited as being first introduced by Milo Cress, now 17, of Burlington, Vermont, when he was only nine years old

The ‘offer first’ idea has been credited as being first introduced by Milo Cress, now 17, of Burlington, Vermont, when he was only nine years old

Cress, now 17, got the movement started eight years ago at Leunig’s Bistro and Cafe in his hometown.

He asked the cafe owner to institute what he called the ‘offer first policy,’ rather than automatically giving customers straws, after seeing so many thrown away without even being used.

Cress said, simply, ‘It seemed like a waste to me.’

Fast forward to today, and Starbucks has just announced it will ban all single-use plastic straws in its 28,000 store across the globe, by 2020.

‘This planet is where we live,’ Cress said. ‘We have an individual and collective responsibility for saving and protecting it.’

Brown, who has made environmental issues a signature priority, pointed to the large amount of plastic dumped in oceans every year that can kill whales and fish and contaminate people’s food and water supplies.

‘Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,’ Brown said in a statement. 

‘Plastics, in all forms – straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. – are choking the planet.’

California’s law doesn’t go as far as those in cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, that ban single-use plastic straws outright, while offering alternatives, like paper straws, for those that need some sort of sipping assistance.

Critics argue California’s straw law won’t significantly improve the environment, and that restricting straws hurts disabled people who rely on them.

Some lawmakers who voted against the measure said it would unfairly punish restaurants, although the restaurant industry didn’t oppose the proposal.

California's law doesn't go as far as those in cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, that ban single-use plastic straws outright, while offering alternatives, like paper straws, for those that need some sort of sipping assistance; This  photo taken on July 17 shows wrapped plastic straws at a bubble tea cafe in San Francisco

California’s law doesn’t go as far as those in cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, that ban single-use plastic straws outright, while offering alternatives, like paper straws, for those that need some sort of sipping assistance; This photo taken on July 17 shows wrapped plastic straws at a bubble tea cafe in San Francisco

The law doesn’t address the biggest causes of plastic ocean pollution, such as fishing nets, and doesn’t apply to some of the biggest users of plastic straws: fast-food restaurants, said Tod Hardin, director of operations and communications for the nonprofit Plastic Oceans International.

‘That in some ways makes it a little bit weaker than we would have hoped for, but it’s a step toward changing behavior and raising awareness,’ he said. ‘It’s a move in a positive direction.’

The other measure, brought by Democratic Senator Bill Monning, centered on discouraging sugary drinks will still let restaurants and fast food chains sell soda or juice with children’s meals. But it says only milk, a non-dairy milk alternative, or sparkling, still or flavored water can be handed out as a default and advertised on the menu.

Monning says his measure aims to combat diabetes, obesity and other health problems in California.

Both laws take effect on January 1.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk