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California

If you want a plastic straw at an L.A. restaurant, you need to ask for it starting today

LA plans to make plastic straws available only on request
Plastic straws fill lemonade cups at a street fair in this 2018 file photo. Los Angeles is joining the state of California in requiring restaurants to give out plastic straws only by request.
(Richard B. Levine / TNS)

Beginning Tuesday, all Los Angeles restaurants will be required to withhold plastic straws unless a customer requests one.

The move marks the second, and more wide-ranging, phase of a city ordinance that went into effect for businesses with more than 26 employees in April aiming to limit the availability of single-use straws. The law now applies to restaurants of all sizes.

The City Council in March voted to prohibit L.A. restaurants from offering or providing disposable plastic straws to customers who are dining in or taking food to go unless patrons request them. The initiative is an attempt to reduce single-use plastic waste from littering beaches and waterways, said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell.

“As a coastal community, we have a heightened responsibility to remove as much single-use plastic from the waste stream as possible,” O’Farrell said Monday. “Restaurants across the city are already switching to alternatives that are biodegradable while more Angelenos are using reusable straws and by extension participating in helping to clean our environment.”

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The city’s definition of plastic straws includes those that are not biodegradable.

California has already passed similar rules governing straws at dine-in restaurants, but the Los Angeles “straws on request” law goes further because it also imposes restrictions on fast-food chains. Unlike San Francisco or Malibu, however, L.A. has not completely banned plastic straws — at least for now.

O’Farrell cited a report from the nonprofit Lonely Whale campaign called Strawless Ocean, which stated Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws each day. Worldwide, plastic straws are among the top 10 marine debris items, according to the environmental advocacy group.

Plastic straws were the sixth-most-collected item on California Coastal Cleanup days from 1988-2016, behind cigarettes, food packaging, caps and lids, plastic bags, and plastic utensils and dishes, according to a city report.

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However, disability rights advocates have voiced concerns over the issue, saying existing alternatives to plastic straws are not always practical or functional for people who need straws to drink.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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