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Straw ban solves a small problem and causes a big ruckus

A+new+bill+would+ban+restaurants+from+giving+out+plastic+straws+to+customers+unless+requested.
A new bill would ban restaurants from giving out plastic straws to customers unless requested.

A new bill would ban restaurants from giving out plastic straws to customers unless requested.

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Courtesy Photo

A new bill would ban restaurants from giving out plastic straws to customers unless requested.

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A bill introduced by California Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier, which aims at reducing the use of plastic straws in California restaurants, was passed by the Assembly on Aug. 23 and is awaiting Gov. Brown’s signature.

AB 1884, would prohibit dine-in restaurants from providing single use plastic straws to customers unless they are requested. Establishments who continue to freely give straws to their customers could be subjected to fines of $25 each day they commit a violation or a total of $300 annually.   

Americans use more than 170 million straws everyday, according to data collected by the market research firm Techonomic.

“By removing the default behavior of providing straws with every drink, consumers have an opportunity to make a deliberate, small change that will minimize the harmful impacts of single use plastic straws in the environment,” Calderon said, in a statement on his official website.

Naturally, people hate change and want to drink their soda or cocktail at their local Applebee’s or Sizzler with the straw they are accustomed to. This is interesting since these same people wouldn’t use a straw in their soda can or whiskey coke they make at home.

Herein lies the problem that environmentalists have when it comes to creating changes in attitude. If you suggest to someone that they should consider reusable bags for grocery shopping or buying an LED light bulb because they are better and more practical, they will probably agree. However, it’s likely they will not change their habits and continue to do what is not in the earth’s or their own best interest. If you force that same person to change their habit via legislation, though, you are likely to get a backlash of epic proportions.

The government has always had the unpleasant job of protecting people from their own stupidity and stubbornness and to stop them from doing things that harm others, the country or the planet. Fortunately, lawmakers are willing to take the slings and arrows knowing that, while it is human nature for people to resist change, it is just as much in their nature to adjust and forget the change even happened.

For those who claim that this is a crime against people with disabilities who rely on straws to consume their beverages, there is the simple solution: paper or bamboo straws, which most restaurants have already begun to carry.

For those who feel that there are much larger issues related to plastic pollution than the use of straws, that is true. Straws make up a small fraction of the plastic pollution in the world (only about 4 percent, according an article on phys.org), but that is not a reason to overlook the use of 170 million completely unnecessary and wasteful items being used per day. There are an estimated 7.5 million straws littering America’s coastlines, according to a study published in 2016 by the scientific journal “Marine Policy. It would seem to be a no brainer to eliminate this nuisance, particularly when they serve very little practical purpose.

Then there are those who simply don’t like government regulation in any form telling them what they can and cannot do, who see liberal legislators taking away their basic unalienable rights as Americans to use plastic straws whenever they want or who see this as another example of regulation harming small business in California. These are the people and politicians who could spell doom for all Californians. If there is an uproar about something this small and insignificant, then the fight for real, needed change and regulation to save the environment is going to be impossible.

Apparently for some, the state will need to be underwater before they will agree that changes need to be made to protect the environment and human lives.

The straw ban is not about meaningful legislation that protects the environment and it’s not an attack on small business. It is  simply making a statement about the sad need to force people out of convenience habits that are harmful to the world around them. It is needed to gauge the much larger fight coming over all single use plastic items. Unfortunately, it has proven how stubborn people can be over small changes that don’t affect their day to day lives but are protecting their future.

The straw ban is not a big deal in any sense of the word. It will have a small effect on the environment and an even smaller effect on people’s lives, so people should stop complaining. Because in six months, no one will remember that we used to use plastic straws anyway.

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Straw ban solves a small problem and causes a big ruckus