Energy

‘Choking Our Planet’: California Bans Restaurants From Automatically Handing Out Plastic Straws

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

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Chris White Tech Reporter

California Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Thursday making his state the country’s first to ban full-service restaurants from handing out plastic straws unless a customer asks for one.

Restaurants that don’t comply can be fined up to $300 per year. Fast food establishments are exempt from the mandate. Conservatives argue such laws reek of government overreach, while Democrats consider plastic straw bans a move in the right direction.

Some critics claim prohibiting straws hurts disabled people who rely on them. But Brown, a Democrat, believes the move will help reduce plastic pollution in oceans.

“Ocean plastic is estimated to kill millions of marine animals every year,” he wrote in a statement announcing the law. “Plastics, in all forms — straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc. — are choking our planet.”

Several cities have already banned the products. (RELATED: Disabled People Are Decrying The Plastic Straw Ban)

San Francisco voted unanimously in July to nix all plastic straws. The city ordinance includes fines for violators ranging from $100 to $500. San Francisco follows Seattle in becoming the latest major U.S. city to ban plastic straws and utensils.

Many companies are not waiting for a law to tell them how to proceed. Starbucks decided in July to ban straws by 2020 as well, but says it will make an “inclusive design” for everyone to enjoy, and American Airlines plans to carry some straws on planes for people with special needs.

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