The photos of beaches littered with plastic straws, the viral videos of turtles and other sea life, the conversations in restaurants across the world, and the many campaigns from The Last Plastic Straw and partners in the movement — all came to a head recently when the state of California made U.S. national news by introducing a Straws Upon Request bill (AB 1884).
The bill calls on dine-in restaurants to enact a straws-upon-request policy “to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” said the bill’s author, Majority Leader Ian Calderon.
Despite a rocky start with Calderon taking heat in the press for including fines for handing out straws unrequested, (Calderon says the fines will be removed from the final language of the bill) Jackie Nuñez, founder of The Last Plastic Straw, says the bill has the potential to do good, changing the way people in California and beyond think about plastic and its toxic effects on the environment.
“This bill is in line with California’s waste reduction goals,” said Nuñez, who first created the “straws upon request” model. Her inspiration came from observing how successful the “water upon request” measure was in curbing water waste in California after years of drought. “I saw first hand how effective that simple ‘ask’ (no ask) was.”
Restaurants and businesses frequently report to Nuñez that after switching to a straws upon request model, 60-90 percent of customers do not request a straw. Learn more about reusable or compostable straws.
“It’s time to remove the automatic distribution of single-use plastic into our communities, and allow local ordinances to define what is acceptable in their waste streams,” said Nuñez. “I do think the bill could be broader in scope to include fast food venues and grocery stores and all to-go non-essential plastics including condiment packets, utensils, straws, stirrers, lids, and bags. All of these could be given out ‘upon request.’”
Nuñez points out that the bill will help with the transition period of complying to California state wide composting and waste reduction bills, and the nation wide Waste Reduction Act of 1990 and Clean Water Act. Not only that, the bill would be a cost saving measure across the board for businesses and communities, she adds.
“Plastic straws are the poster child for needless single-use plastic,” said Nuñez. “Plastic never was, and never will be ‘disposable.’