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 …
AP File Photo/Andrew Selsky

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.”


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.