The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance on March 1 requiring restaurants to provide plastic straws only by request, a move the Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said is a step toward reducing the amount of plastic debris that becomes pollution.
“We are a coastal community with a responsibility to do better for our environment and set an example for other municipalities who might be considering this progressive environmental policy,” said O’Farrell, 13th District, who authored the motion calling for the ordinance. “This can serve to motivate the industry to act faster than the law requires and invest in environmentally sustainable products. Many small businesses in my district have already taken the initiative to make a difference in our environment, and I know this policy will have a considerable positive impact on all of us.”
The law, known as the Plastic Straws on Request ordinance, will take effect on Earth Day, April 22. It will initially apply to businesses with 26 employees or more, with all restaurants being required to comply by Oct. 1. Many restaurants have already begun offering paper straws in lieu of plastic. O’Farrell is seeking to phase out plastic straws completely by 2021 and is working with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and the Department on Disability to achieve that goal.
The council’s approval comes after more than a year of work with restaurant owners, environmental groups and others to determine the best way to address the pollution caused by plastic straws. Heal the Bay, Surfrider LA and the 5 Gyres Institute endorsed the ordinance making Los Angeles the largest city in the United States to establish a Plastic Straws on Request ordinance.
“I am tired of seeing plastic waste along our freeways and off-ramps, and this action by the City Council will go a long way in the effort to make our environment cleaner for our children,” said Councilwoman Nury Martinez, 6th District, chair of the council’s Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justice Committee. “By requiring customers to ask first, we are challenging them to think twice. And by thinking twice, maybe they will realize they can do without a straw.”
Councilman Paul Krekorian, 2nd District, also supported the ordinance.
“Los Angeles will be a better city once we complete our shift away from harmful plastics, and this ordinance is another significant step toward changing the way people think about single-use plastics,” Krekorian said. “I thank Council member Mitch O’Farrell for his leadership on bringing forward a positive solution that works for our communities, businesses and the environment.”
The state and county have also adopted regulations on single-use plastic straws, but the Los Angeles city ordinance takes an additional step by requiring restaurants and fast food chains to withhold plastic straws unless requested by customers. Signs will be posted at restaurants, and customers in drive-thrus will be told they need to ask for a straw if desired.
“The vast majority of trash we find at our beach cleanup is single-use plastic,” said Heal the Bay President Shelley Luce. “This is a great step forward for Los Angeles. The ordinance will result in less waste in landfills, less blight in our neighborhoods, and less trash in our rivers and the ocean.”
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