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CALIFORNIA: Waiters Fined $1,000 and Six Months in Jail For Providing Plastic Straws

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Three years after California banned single-use plastic bags, a state lawmaker is attempting to make plastic straws the next taboo item.

Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier (Los Angeles County), introduced a bill this month that would make it a crime for a waiter at a sit-down restaurant to provide a plastic straw without being asked for one first. 

As currently written, the bill includes misdemeanor penalties for servers who violate the proposed law — up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail — but Calderon’s office said he is in the process of amending those out of the bill.

“It will be a law that will need to be complied with, but not with those penalties,” Calderon wrote on Twitter after facing backlash over the proposed penalties.

Calderon said what he wants is a bill that reduces the number of plastic straws that become unmanageable litter and waste. And AB1884 is a step in the right direction, he said.

The bill would not apply to fast-food restaurants, cafes or delis, or any takeout orders, where straws are far more likely to be improperly disposed of. It’s far short of a ban on plastic straws that environmental groups are pushing for, but its limited scope may make it easier to accept for potential opponents, such as the restaurant industry.

“Really, what’s at stake here is a few moments of convenience creating a years-long environmental threat,” said David Lewis, executive director of the group Save the Bay.

Some restaurants and bars have already taken steps to cut back or eliminate plastic-straw use. It has been almost a year since Pagan Idol tiki bar in San Francisco’s Financial District stopped using plastic straws, instead finding a compostable paper straw that wouldn’t end up in the bay and other waterways.

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