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California Is Now the First State to Restrict Plastic Straws in Restaurants

California Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t wrong when he says plastic is “choking our planet.” 

Americans use a whopping 170 to 390 million straws per day according to market research firms. And where do most of those straws go? In the ocean, polluting the water and killing marine life.

So it’s no surprise businesses like Starbucks and Marriott and cities like Seattle are banning plastic straws.

More: Starbucks & McDonald’s Are Teaming Up to Help Save the Environment

And recently, California just became the first state to restrict plastic straws at restaurants. According to the Los Angeles Times, the new legislation, AB-1884, was signed on Thursday.

Brown signed the nation’s first state law that states restaurants cannot give customers plastic straws unless customers ask for them. If restaurants do not abide by the law, they are given a warning on the first two violations and then a $25 daily fine for subsequent violations. The fines are capped at $300.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, oddly excludes fast-food restaurants, coffee shops, delis and restaurants serving takeout, however. 

“I just don’t see how this is going to make that much a difference in reducing straws in the waterways,” said California Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, per the Times. “Punishing the restaurant for defying this mandate I just think sends the wrong message.”

Some people in the disabled community are also worried that, with this new law, restaurants will decide to stop offering plastic straws altogether in order to avoid the possible fines. 

“Some people who need straws may have an invisible disability or illness, and they should be able to receive a straw without being judged or asked if they ‘really’ need it,” says Karin Willison, a travel blogger who has cerebral palsy, as reported by the LA Times.

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In the end, though, Brown’s goal is to reduce single-use plastic products.

“It is a very small step to make a customer who wants a plastic straw ask for it,” Brown said according to the Times. “And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative. But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products.”

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