By City News Service
Restaurants in much of Los Angeles County will soon be restricted from distributing plastic straws to customers who don’t ask for them, with the county Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council both moving ahead with restrictions today.
The City Council voted 12-0 to direct its attorneys to draft an ordinance that would ban all restaurants in the city from automatically distributing plastic straws to customers, beginning on Earth Day in April. Under the proposal, straws could only provided to customers who specifically ask for them.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell is one of the proposal’s backers, and said he wants Los Angeles to go further than a state law, recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, banning full-service restaurants from automatically giving customers plastic straws beginning Jan. 1. The council’s proposal would apply to all food and beverage facilities with more than 26 employees effective April 22, and then to all other food and beverage operations effective Oct. 1 of next year. The original motion called for the implementation for restaurants with more than 26 workers to start on Jan. 1, but it was amended to start on Earth Day.
The motion for the straws-on-request ordinance cites a Los Angeles Times editorial which stated that Americans use — and almost immediately discard — up to a half-billion plastic beverage straws each day.
Videos going viral on social media have focused on the harmful efforts of single-use straws on marine life.
The council also instructed its the Bureau of Sanitation to report back on the feasibility of phasing out single-use plastic straws by 2021, and to work with the Department of Disability on methods and approaches to mitigate impacts to the disabled community associated with the phase-out.
“The two-year phase-out gives restaurants and bars the time they need to deplete their current inventory of plastic straws, and it gives the industry time to pioneer biodegradable and environmentally friendly alternatives for mass consumption,” O’Farrell said.
The county Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, adopted an ordinance similar to the city’s, but it will take effect Jan. 3. The county ordinance will apply to all businesses serving food or beverages in unincorporated areas and provides that servers hand out straws only on request. However, businesses that previously distributed straws automatically may ask customers if they want one and then only oblige if customers answer yes.
Violators will be subject to fines of $25 per day and a maximum of $300 per year.
More than 100 municipalities statewide have put some restrictions on single-use plastic products. Malibu has banned the use of plastic straws, stirrers and utensils, while Santa Monica has adopted an even broader prohibition that includes plastic plates, trays, cups and other single-use containers that will take effect Jan. 1.
This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Sentinel.