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SoCal Assemblyman Wants Restaurants to Stop Serving Plastic Straws Unless Requested

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AB 1884 is not an outright ban, and written to protect the environment

By Salee Sangratsamee
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Last week, a Whittier Democrat Assemblyman introduced legislation that would eliminate the customary serving of plastic straws, unless a customer requests one. First reported by the Sacramento Bee, Ian Calderon’s California Assembly Bill 1884 is specifically for the state’s sit-down restaurants, while fast-food establishments are exempt. AB 1884’s seeks to limit the use of straws, and protect the environment.

After reading reports by environmental groups, Calderon initiated AB 1884. Those reports detailed national statistics that up to 500 million plastic beverage straws are used daily and immediately discarded, which lead to overflowing landfills, polluted beaches, and negative impacts on wildlife.

According to Calderon’s statement, plastic straws and stirrers ranked as the sixth most collected item. Straws are not recycled, and are found in various bodies of water. Marine life often mistake straws for food.

There has been some pushback, most notably from Huntington Beach Assemblyman Travis Allen. The Republican candidate for California governor accused AB 1884 of government overreach on Twitter:

In Los Angeles, some organizations and businesses have already adopted a policy on plastic straws. Providence implemented has a zero-waste cocktail program, and uses sustainable drinking straws. The Varnish serves cocktails in metal straws. Cafe Gratitude provides paper straws at their to-go counter. The California Science Center’s food court implemented a ban on plastic straws last year, citing a “personal and institutional responsibility” for the environment. And Manhattan Beach has a ban on all disposable plastics.

Eater contributor and Food GPS creator Josh Lurie, also chimed in on the debate. “L.A.’s restaurant industry is facing some major challenges, including a labor shortage, rising wages, and toxic work environments, but I’m going to focus on a smaller issue that still stacks up. Many restaurants automatically serve plastic straws, which in most cases are totally unnecessary unless you’re a child, or drinking boba. Even then, most of these straws end up in landfills at best, and in oceans at worst, where they choke sea creatures. Restaurants should start by only handing out straws if somebody asks for one, and probably shouldn’t use them at all. If restaurants still insist on using straws, please let them be paper.”