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City of LA Expands Plastic Straw Restrictions to Include Fast Food and Drive-Thru Restaurants

The Council voted unanimously on Friday

Plastic straw
LA City Council announces plastic straw ban
Courtesy of Councilman Mitch O’Farrell

In a unanimous vote last Friday, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance requiring drive-thru restaurants and fast food chains to cease furnishing disposable plastic straws unless customers ask for them. The Council’s action is an expansion of the recent state law which was only intended for dine-in restaurants, making Los Angeles the largest city to pass a ‘plastic straws on request’ ordinance.

As of April 22, all Los Angeles businesses with 26 employees or more, food delivery services, fast food restaurants, and drive-thru restaurants must adhere to the new plastic straws upon request ordinance. Introduced by Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, the ordinance goes well beyond the state’s plastic straw restriction for dine-in restaurants only, and now requires fast food and drive-thru customers to adhere to the law.

When former Governor Jerry Brown signed the ban last September, many argued the omission of fast food restaurants was a problem, as fast food restaurants are arguably some of the biggest users of plastic straws.

Councilmembers hope Angelenos will consider whether plastics are worth it with this ordinance. “By requiring customers to ask first, we are challenging them to think twice,” says Councilwoman Nury Martinez. “And by thinking twice, maybe they will realize they can do without a straw.”

Businesses are taking steps to comply, or already using environmentally-friendly options. Daytime Los Feliz spot Honey Hi started using them the moment it opened in 2016.

“Environmental sustainability is baked into every decision we make at Honey Hi, from the way we source food to the way we package to-go orders,” says Honey Hi co-owner, Caitlin Sullivan. “All of our to-go/delivery packaging is compostable/recyclable. We are always striving to reduce our reliance on single use plastics and switching to paper straws is one small step of many. The truth is, the paper straws just don’t work that well and people don’t like to use them, so we’re in the process of switching to avocado seed straws. they break down in about 200 days and are sturdier than paper. It certainly costs more to make these switches, but it’s important to our customers and non-negotiable for us that we make sustainable choices.”

As of now, the Council is working with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation to move towards a complete phase out of plastic straws by 2021, and address concerns with the Department on Disability. The ordinance will now go to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s desk for his signature.