Pasadena Eateries Already Implementing New State Straws Law

Published : Monday, September 24, 2018 | 7:04 PM

With a stroke of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pen last week, California has become the first state to bar full-service restaurants from handing out drinking straws to customers unless specifically requested.

The law takes effect the first of the year, but many Pasadena eateries have already begun implementing the change. And authorities are keeping a watchful eye on developments in the restaurant business as the pioneering legislation — meant to keep plastic waste out of landfills and the ocean — plays out.

Many restaurateurs and environmentalists agree that the so-called straw ban will not suck profits out of businesses’ bottom lines. But environmental advocates have asked whether the measure, authored by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Industry, goes far enough, or is merely grasping at proverbial straws.

“Straws suck,” said Daniel Rossman, who serves as chairman of the Pasadena Environmental Advisory Commission.

“This is a very good first step in trying to reduce the amount of disposable plastics that go into the waste stream and often times make it out to not only landfills, but the ocean, where it can harm wildlife,” he said. “This is something that it’s not going to cost any money to implement. In fact, it’s going to save businesses money. So it’s a real no-brainer in terms of a first step.”

Rossman said he would like to see further restrictions on plastic straws implemented.

“There are stronger solutions and actions that I think policymakers should continue to think about,” he said. “It makes sense to look at even outright bans, encouraging consumers to use something like reusable metal straws.”

Some restaurants may opt to replace plastic drinking straws with plastic, coffee cup-style sipper lids to comply with the law, Rossman added. “The real goal is to reduce the amount of plastic waste that makes it into the waste stream. If you’re replacing a plastic straw with a plastic lid, it’s not much of a gain there.”

And attacking plastic waste in the form of plastic straws will help, rather than hinder, the restaurants affected by the law.

“ Often times, environmental waste and economic waste go together,” Rossman said.

And he said he doesn’t believe diners will mind.

“I think most consumers are going to be very comfortable with this decision. It’s something where if you really do need a straw, you can still ask for one. I think people would be happy to do a small act drinking without a straw to help preserve our oceans and our environment,” Rossman said.

California Restaurant Association spokeswoman Sharokina Shams said some local businesses aren’t waiting for the policy to become official.

“The new law takes effect on January 1, but if you’ve eaten out recently in Pasadena or anywhere else, what you know is that some restaurants have already made this change,” she said.

The CRA offered no opposition to the law, she said.

“We were neutral on this bill and I think it surprises people to learn that,” Shams said. “I think the assumption is that our organization and others might have stood up in opposition to a piece of legislation like this. The truth is we didn’t because it still allows the consumer a choice. If a person wants to have a straw, that individual can still request to straw.”

The policy applies only to full-service restaurants, in which customers are served by waitstaff.

“So if you run a full-service restaurant, you certainly will have to train your staff to know how to abide by the new law because the new law does come with some fines,” Shams said.

Violations result in two warning, followed by fines of $25 per day.

Pasadena City Councilman Tyron Hampton said he likes the idea.

“I think it’s just one less thing that goes into our landfill and another way for us to be conscious of our environment in the world that we live in,” he said. “I’m supportive of it.”

But he added that he will be looking into whether the new policy causes any problems.

“We need to really look into this and see what the real, true economic impacts are. Especially small businesses,” Hampton said.

“The only thing I will say is I have a 4-year-old daughter who loves straws,” the Councilman said. “I think she’ll do it. She’ll be fine without the straw.”












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