To many misconceptions, the California law to eliminate plastics in our oceans does not outlaw straws as rumored, and is in fact, more lenient than what is widely believed. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Assembly Bill 1884, making California the first state in the U.S. to ban restaurants from free-willingly handing out plastic straws; yet, customers are still able to receive a straw if they ask, but only one per customer. Evidently, the bill restrains a selected scope, namely restaurants, which will be the only establishments that will no longer automatically serve straws to their customers; thus leaving cafe shops, fast-food joints, and delis exempt from the restrictions. For this reason, the bill clearly defines the confined to “full-service” businesses, but even then, supporters of the law said it has cut down on ocean pollution.
Americans are estimated to use 500 million straws per day, and among marine debris it makes up 10% according to the Sailors of the Sea, a nonprofit organization. The primary momentum for this bill was generated from a viral 2015 video of rescuers pulling a straw out from a sea turtle’s nostril, which can be seen here under viewers discretion. Different states and other public agencies can adopt a similar rule on the use of plastic straws, and others have like San Francisco and Seattle. Their laws are the strict-version of the general California bill, enforcing violation fines, but will not exceed $300. So, no, straws are not illegal, but their dependency needs to be lessened; and that’s what these laws are attempting to achieve.