Bans on plastic straws are the newest legislative trend across California, with cities such as San Francisco and Malibu banning restaurants from giving them out, and Sacramento prohibiting full-service, dine-in restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws earlier this year.
Now, Los Angeles has jumped on the bandwagon. A proposal moved forward on Tuesday by the City Council would implement a citywide straws-on-request-only ordinance, which could be enacted next April on Earth Day.
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said he wants Los Angeles to go further than Gov. Jerry Brown’s implementation of a similar bill going into effect Jan. 1. He and other members of the City Council also asked the Bureau of Sanitation to report back the feasibility of a complete ban, and to work with the Department of Disability on helping the disabled community adjust to 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.
However, disabilities activists have long said the restrictions will do more harm than good. Plastic straws can prevent people with mobility disabilities from aspirating liquid into their lungs, according to experts, while paper alternatives can often break down prematurely as they are exposed to liquid.
“What has happened here is a situation that happens time and time again when it comes to the disability community, and that is ‘out of sight, out of mind’,” Lawrence Carter-Long, the director of communications at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, told The Guardian in August. “If people don’t personally need straws, they fail or neglect to realize that there are people that do.”
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.