Plastic straws will be a little more difficult to come by in Los Angeles restaurants beginning on Earth Day as a city ordinance aiming to limit the availability of the single-use item takes effect Monday.
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. Drive-through and delivery businesses can offer customers plastic straws but are still barred from giving them out without a request.
The ordinance went into effect Monday for businesses with more than 26 employees and will be put into place in October for all other restaurants and food and beverage vendors.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell heralded the council’s decision at the time as an important step toward confronting a “major environmental calamity that is unfolding before us.”
Los Angeles County approved a similar ordinance restricting plastic straws in December. Under the county rules, restaurants must ask customers whether they want a plastic straw before giving one out. In the city, it would be up to the customer to make the request.
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.
In December, L.A. council members asked the Bureau of Sanitation to look into phasing out plastic straws entirely by 2021. O’Farrell has planned to move forward with a ban, saying last year that it is “one of those issues that we should’ve acted on probably 10 years ago.”
Plastic straws were the sixth-most-collected item on California Coastal Cleanup days from 1988 to 2016, behind cigarettes, food packaging, caps and lids, plastic bags, and plastic utensils and dishes, according to a city report.
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.