California lawmakers want to jail, fine waiters for giving unsolicited straws to diners

Are you a waiter giving a customer a straw? You’re destroying the planet!

That is what California lawmakers think.

Ian Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California’s lower house, introduced legislation that would make it illegal for a waiter to serve a drink with an unsolicited straw in the glass. If a waster is found violating the law, he or she could face up to six months in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.


“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” said Calderon in a press release. “AB 1884 is not ban on plastic straws. It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”

Not only is the state destroying waiters’ livelihoods with a higher minimum wage, they want to destroy their lives, too, by giving them a criminal record.

More from Reason:

This isn’t just Calderon’s crusade. The California cities of San Luis Obispo and Davis both passed straws-on-request laws last year, and Manhattan Beach maintains a prohibition on all disposable plastics. And up in Seattle, food service businesses won’t be allowed to offer plastic straws or utensils as of July.

The Los Angeles Times has gotten behind the movement, endorsing straws-on-request policies in an editorial that also warned that “repetitive sucking may cause or exacerbate wrinkles on the lips or around the mouth.” Celebrity astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson (always up for a little chiding) and Entourage star Adrian Grenier have appeared in videos where an octopus slaps them in the face for using a plastic straw.

The actual number of straws being used is unclear. Calderon, along with news outlets writing about this issue—from CNN to the San Francisco Chronicle—unfailingly state that Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day, many of them ending up in waterways and oceans. The 500 million figure is often attributed to the National Park Service; it in turn got it from the recycling company Eco-Cycle.

What the heck is going on in California?

When will Californians rise up and declare this is the last straw?

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