Happy Hour could be happier. The vote on AB 1884: The Straws On Request Bill is tomorrow! Let your California rep know that reducing plastic pollution is important to you.
Here’s an FAQ!
What is the Straws On Request bill?
California Assembly Bill (AB) 1884, the Straws On Request bill, would require that dine-in, full service restaurants across the state provide straws only when customers asks for them. Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon introduced the bill because of his deep respect for the ocean that began as a surfer, and in response to a growing body of science showing that plastic pollution is a real problem for our planet—especially the ocean, and ocean wildlife.
Why is plastic pollution a problem for the ocean?
Nearly 9 million tons of plastic enters the ocean each year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute! If we don’t make changes globally, that amount is expected to double by 2025. Plastic can now be found in almost every marine habitat on Earth—from polar sea ice to deep ocean trenches. Ocean animals are harmed by plastic pollution in two main ways: when they accidentally eat it, and when they get entangled in it.
Straws are only small part of plastic pollution. Why are you focusing on them?
Plastic straws consistently show up among the top 10 items collected in beach cleanups around the world. They’re made of a petroleum byproduct called polypropylene, often mixed with other chemicals to make them flexible and add color. They don’t biodegrade easily under natural conditions, and they can’t easily be recycled due to their small size. Instead, plastic persists on our planet for hundreds of years—breaking down into smaller pieces, but not being assimilated back into the environment. This means it is likely that almost every plastic straw ever used is still with us, either on land or in the ocean. In addition, targeting plastic straws raises awareness of the larger problem with single-use plastic. It gets people thinking and talking about other ways they can reduce their reliance on these single-use items – and encourage businesses to find innovative alternatives.
What about people with disabilities for whom plastic straws are a necessity?
Some people do need plastic straws due to disabilities or medical needs. For them, a straw is an assistive device that helps them eat or drink. The Aquarium supports ensuring that plastic straws remain available and accessible to those who need them, through policies like the Straws On Request bill, and clear exemptions in any law that could be considered a ban on straws. For people without these disabilities, however, straws really are optional—and avoidable. In most cases, we don’t even need ocean-friendly alternatives; we can just skip the straw, and sip our drinks like we do a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Limiting the use of plastic straws to people who really need them will make a big dent in the volume of straws Californians go through.
How can I support California’s Straws On Request bill?
Email your California state legislators, and ask them to vote “YES” on AB 1884. Let them know you support this and other efforts to tackle ocean plastic pollution at the source—by making and using less unnecessary single-use plastic.
What businesses would be affected?
AB 1884 only applies to dine-in restaurants—places where you sit down to eat. It does not apply to fast-food or drive-through restaurants, coffee shops, bars, school cafeterias, health care facilities, mobile food facilities (like food trucks), vending machines, farmers’ markets, or fast-casual restaurants with self-service beverage stations.
Would affected restaurants be punished for serving plastic straws that were not requested?
Under the Straws On Request bill, first and second violations would result in warnings. After that, violations could trigger fines of $25 per day, up to $300 per year.
Does the Aquarium use plastic straws and other forms of single-use plastic?
We’re making a serious effort to cut down on our own use of single-use plastic. We’ve eliminated plastic straws from our cafe and restaurant (except for those who need them). We’ve also cut disposable plastic beverage containers and plastic bags out of our foodservice and retail operations. We’re always looking for new ways to reduce our own plastic consumption, and we encourage our visitors to consider alternatives to plastic whenever possible.
Why is the Aquarium allowed to take a position on this and other pieces of legislation?
As a 501©(3) nonprofit organization, we are permitted to take action on policies like this bill, and we must report on these activities. We are also limited in the amount of time and money we spend on policy-related action.
What else can I do about ocean plastic pollution?
If you don’t need a plastic straw, skip it! You can also carry a reusable straw made from glass, metal, silicone or bamboo. Keep in mind that straws are one small part of a much larger problem. Refuse or choose alternatives to other forms of single-use plastic, like disposable cutlery and beverage bottles, whenever possible. Ask your favorite stores, restaurants and brands to switch to alternatives, and thank them—in person and on social media—when they do.