California Bill Would Jail and Fine Waiters Who Offer ‘Unsolicited’ Plastic Straws

This July 1, 2016 photo shows a jail cell inside the decades-old Crook County Jail in Prineville, Ore. "It's pretty much a dungeon," prisoner Anthony Kinsey, jailed on methamphetamine charges, said over the phone. "There are four people in each cell; it’s real crowded. The toilet is right by your …
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A group of California legislators wants to punish waiters who offer “unsolicited” plastic straws to customers with a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Democratic California Assembly Majority Floor Leader Ian Calderon has introduced a bill that could put waiters in jail for offering their patrons a plastic straw without them asking for one.

“This bill would prohibit a food facility, as specified, where food may be consumed on the premises from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless requested by the consumer,” the bill reads. “By creating a new crime and imposing additional enforcement duties on local health agencies, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.”

“Existing law requires, except as otherwise provided, a person who violates any provision of the code to be guilty of a misdemeanor with each offense punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $1,000, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding 6 months, or by both,” it states.

Calderon estimated that Americans use 500 million plastic straws per day. A report on the bill from Reason revealed that the estimate came from a 2011 survey conducted by then 9-year-old Milo Cress. Cress calculated the number by calling straw manufacturers.

In a press release, Calderon explained that the bill is motivated by a push to create greater awareness about the effects of plastic straws on the environment.

“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” Calderon said in the 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.”

After intense scrutiny, Calderon issued a series of tweets that contradict with the text of his bill. Calderon claims now that the bill would not make serving plastic straws a crime. “I’d like to clarify that (Straws Upon Request) is (a) NOT a ban; (b) should it become law, it will NOT make it a crime for servers to provide plastic straws,” he wrote. “My intention is simply to raise awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic straws on our environment.”

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