California, United States-
By 2019, Californians will have to ask for plastic starws specifically, if they want to sip their drinks through them. Recently, governor Jerry Brown signed a law prohibiting full-service restaurants from giving customers plastic straws unless they’re requested by saying that plastic waste is choking our planet. Individual cities like Seattle and San Francisco also have promised to eliminate single-use straws.
“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Brown wrote in a signing message. He also mentioned the dead pilot whale that washed up on a beach in Thailand recently. Whale was found with 80 plastic bags in its stomach, preventing it from digesting food. He also noted that humans aren’t immune to the dangers of discarded plastics either, as microplastics have been found in our tap water.
Still you will be able to see plastic straws around the city as diners in full-service restaurants will still be able to get them upon request, and fast food establishments (the biggest users of plastic straws), coffee shops, and takeout spots are exempt from the ruling.
Plastic straws have become a hot button issue recently, with fast food giants like Starbucks promising to do away with them. (The former plans to remove them from all establishments by 2019, while the latter has set 2020 as their target straw-free zone.). McDonald’s is also thinking about joining the movement—the mega-chain’s restaurants in the U.K. and Ireland have banned plastic straws entirely, replacing them with paper alternatives, and they’re thinking about testing a similar strategy stateside. Meanwhile, Disney, whose theme park guests go through about 175 million straws a year, has also said they’ll discontinue their use at all company owned and operated parks (excluding Tokyo Disney) by 2019.
While the negative environmental impact of America’s plastic straw use is real (we go through about 500 million of them every day), the straw-free movement isn’t without consequences. The new laws concern some in the disabled community, who may not have the arm or hand strength to lift their glasses, and depend on straws for safe drinking. Additionally, the California measure was opposed by many Republican lawmakers, who see it as a burden on small businesses.