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California bill would ban servers from handing out plastic straws unless asked

SACRAMENTO, Calif.  — A California lawmaker is facing criticism for a bill that, if passed, would make it illegal for servers to offer plastic straws unless asked.

The law makes providing a straw without being asked punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, reports KGTV.

The bill was introduced by Majority Leader Ian Calderon last week.

The law wouldn’t apply to bars or fast-food restaurants, but only to sit-down restaurants.

Calderon said the law would eventually be amended to eliminate the extremely harsh penalties.

Calderon says the bill is aimed at reducing the environmental damage from plastic that winds up in landfills, waterways and ocean.

Still, critics have scorned the bill, calling it government overkill.

Strawless in Seattle

An ordinance banning plastic straws and plastic utensils will take effect this year in Seattle.

Starting July 1, 2018, eateries in the city will no longer be able to dispense plastic items, Seattle Public Utilities’ Strategic Adviser for Product Stewardship Sego Jackson said.

The ordinance banning plastic silverware has been on the books since 2010, Jackson said, but an exemption has been in place. That exemption is set to expire and won’t be renewed.

“As of July 1, 2018, food services businesses should not be providing plastic straws or utensils,” Jackson said. “What they should be providing are compostable straws or compostable utensils. But they also might be providing durables, reusables, or encouraging you to skip the straw altogether.”

The exemption allowing the disposable plastics was put in place in order to allow technology to make compostable alternatives more feasible.

“Early on there weren’t many compostable options,” Jackson said. “And some of the options didn’t perform well or compost well. That’s all changed now.”

Plastic straws and utensils will still be available for purchase at city grocery stores. The ordinance only applies to businesses that serve food. Restaurants that don’t stop using disposable plastic will be warned and eventually fined, Jackson said. However, they will be given some leeway from when the ban goes into place, and be given help with the transition, Jackson said.

“These things take time to get businesses up to speed and in compliance,” Jackson said. “They’ll be a lot of outreach happening.”