Brown signs California law intended to curb plastic straws in restaurants

Brown signs California law intended to curb plastic straws in restaurants
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California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill Thursday forbidding dine-in restaurants from giving patrons plastic straws unless one is requested. 

"Ocean plastic is estimated to kill millions of marine animals every year," Brown wrote in his signing statement. "Plastics, in all forms-straws, bottles, packaging, bags, etc.-are choking our planet."

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He added that a verbal request is "a very small step" for a customer to make if they actually want to make use of a straw.

"And it might make them pause and think again about an alternative," Brown wrote. 

"But one thing is clear, we must find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate single-use plastic products," he concluded.

The law will take effect January 1 and will penalize any full-service restaurant with a written warning for its first two violations and then a $25 fine for each subsequent day of infractions.

The regulation comes amid a wave of environmental activism focused around lowering American's uses of plastic straws. 

Some cities, such as Seattle, have sought to ban single-use plastic straws entirely.

However, the efforts have met with pushback from disabilities rights activists, who argue that some disabled people need ready access straws.

"For a disabled person, straws are an accessibility tool," Alice Wong, founder and director of the Disability Visibility Project, told The Guardian last month.

Even with a regulation like California's rather than a full ban, advocates have expressed concerns that people who need straws because of disabilities will be judged or shamed for using them.

"Some people who need straws may have an invisible disability or illness, and they should be able to receive a straw without being judged or asked if they 'really' need it," Karin Willison, the disability editor at the health website The Mighty, who has cerebral palsy herself, told The Los Angeles Times.