When it comes to trash in our oceans, many people think of plastic water bottles or grocery bags. So if you’ve already switched to a reusable water bottle and you bring your own bags to Whole Foods, you’re in the clear right? Wrong. Many other items contribute to the 8 million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. One of the often overlooked culprits is plastic drinking straws — but California has introduced a law to change that.
Think of how often you order a drink at a restaurant. The waiter sets down six glasses of water and with it, six straws. You use the straw just because it’s there, but what if it wasn’t? Would your water experience be that much worse because of the lack of straw? Would you even notice?
That’s the question that California lawmaker Ian Calderon is asking. He proposed a bill that would carry a penalty of a fine, jail time, or both for giving out plastic straws without request. While he admits that those consequences are harsh (and will likely be removed by amendments), he says the goal is to “raise awareness about the detrimental effects of plastic straws on our environment.” AB-1884 was not designed to ban plastic straws entirely — its main objective is to get people thinking about whether or not they need a straw to begin with. By introducing this bill, Calderon is hoping that it will “curb our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”
Ian Calderon is not the only one pushing for less straws — Scotland, various cities in the United States, and Queen Elizabeth herself have eliminated plastic straws entirely. Saving the ocean by only removing straws? Not a bad trade off.