Drink from a cup, not a straw, to help planet

Last time you went to a restaurant, chances are your drink came with a straw. Did you ask for it?

On Feb. 5, State Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon introduced a bill that would prevent restaurants from giving plastic straws to patrons unless one is requested. His motivation is environmental and his argument is convincing.

Up to 500 million plastic beverage straws are used and thrown away per day. Almost everyone in California should know that plastic waste harms the environment and yet for many years this source of waste has gone ignored.

One may think that plastic straws could just be recycled, and indeed straws are often made of recyclable plastic. However, facilities with the capability to recycle straws are rare, and often straws get stuck in machines or simply fall through the cracks.

Instead of being recycled, the straws end up in landfills, piling up and taking lifetimes to decompose. Purchasing machines better able to recycle straws would be immensely expensive and draw away funds that could be used better in other areas.

Gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen voiced his opinion that the bill is an overreach of the government and an unnecessary intrusion into the people’s lives.

At first the bill seems to be exactly what he says, an overreach. Yet upon closer inspection, it is hard to find any way in which this bill would infringe on people’s rights as patrons may still request straws if they wish.

Not only may patrons request straws, but restaurants may also use washable, reusable straws and be free from the restrictions of the bill.

Any food provider with self-serve drinks will not be required to take away the straws, and school cafeterias and other types of similar establishments will be able to continue serving straws to all their customers.

The bill is certainly not an overstep of government power, but is rather a nudge to make Californians less wasteful. Even if the bill is not passed, the attention it has garnered has already helped its cause.

Californians worried about losing straws should ask themselves why they cannot simply drink from the cup like one has done for thousands of years before the plastic one-use straw was invented.

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