Los Angeles bans self-service plastic straw dispensers

The new legislation also extends the "don’t ask, don’t get" requirement of state law to quick-service places, and puts restrictions on the inclusion of straws in off-premise orders.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants will be prohibited from using self-service plastic-straw dispensers in Los Angeles under a law passed Friday by the City Council. 

The measure will also require quick-service restaurants (QSRs) within the city to hold off on providing plastic straws to customers unless one is requested. That obligation currently applies in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the state exclusively to full-service establishments.  

The Los Angeles legislation marks the first time a straw restriction has been aimed expressly at off-premise business. Under the new rules, customers placing takeout or delivery orders within the city can be asked if they want a straw. However, restaurants cannot automatically provide one.

Using a self-serve straw dispenser or placing a handful of straws upright in a cup for customers to take at will have been painless way for restaurants to deal with new laws mandating that plastic straws be provided only upon request. Letting patrons take a straw if they want one basically spared the establishment from having to get involved.

A food and beverage facility employing more than 26 people will be obliged to observe the new laws starting April 22, also known as Earth Day. But civic authorities will not issue fines for noncompliance until Oct. 1, when places of all sizes will be required to follow the new rules.

Violators will be issued warnings after their first and second offense, and fined $25 per infraction upon a third offense. The proceeds will be put into the Citywide Recycling Trust Fund.

The measure is the latest effort to divert plastic straws from oceans, where they’re often mistaken for food by turtles and other sea creatures. Ingesting the nonbiodegradable tubes can be deadly to sea life.    

Authorities in Los Angeles pointed out that the restrictions are less of a wallop than an outright ban on plastic straws. The drinking aids have been outlawed in San Francisco and Malibu, and Los Angeles had been expected to follow suit.

The measure passed the Council in a 12-0 vote.

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