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Plastic Straws Would Be Phased Out Under LA City Councilman's Proposal

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – All Los Angeles restaurants would be banned from giving customers plastic straws by 2021 under a proposal backed Tuesday by a City Council committee.

Councilman Mitch O'Farrell wants to create a citywide single-use plastic straw ordinance that would go further than a bill, recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, banning full-service restaurants from automatically giving customers plastic straws beginning Jan. 1.

"Plastic straws play a negative, outsized role in harming our environment and as a coastal city, we have a responsibility to act," O'Farrell said. "The fact that many small businesses in my district already offer plastic straws on request, or use environmentally friendly alternatives, demonstrates momentum on this issue."

Under the measure approved by the council's Energy, Environment, and Social Justice Committee, the Bureau of Sanitation would be instructed to report back within 90 days regarding the feasibility of phasing out single-use plastic straws by 2021, and to work with the Department of Disability on methods and approaches to mitigate impacts to the disabled community associated with the phase-out.

The committee also moved to have the city attorney draft a plastic straws-on-request ordinance applicable to food and beverage facilities with more than 26 employees effective Jan. 1, and applicable to all other food and beverage facilities effective July 1 of next year.

"Straws on request is another step by the L.A. City Council to remove more trash from our waste stream, a waste stream that currently and historically flows through the communities I represent," said Councilwoman Nury Martinez, who co-introduced the initiative with O'Farrell. "Our goal of zero waste in Los Angeles will protect our environment and the communities of the Northeast Valley for years to come."

O'Farrell's original motion for the straws-on-request ordinance cites a Los Angeles Times editorial which stated that Americans use -- and almost immediately discard -- up to a half-billion plastic beverage straws each day.

The motion also called on the Bureau of Sanitation to report on options that business owners may use as an alternative to plastic straws, such as biodegradable or reusable straws.

"Since 2000, Heal the Bay volunteers have picked up over 121,000 straws and stirrers from Los Angeles County beaches," said Shelley Luce, president and CEO of Heal the Bay. "It's heartening to see businesses recognizing the problem and becoming part of solution."

The committee also approved a second motion that calls for the city to explore the feasibility of implementing a plastic utensils-on-request ordinance which requires restaurants, and other food service providers, to withhold plastic utensils unless a customer requests them.

The law signed by Brown made California the first state to bar full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws.

The law, which takes effect next year, will apply only to full-service restaurants, not fast-food establishments. Restaurants that don't comply will get two warnings before being fined up to $300 per year.

Democratic lawmakers who support the law call it a small step toward reducing ocean pollution; critics argue California's new law is government overreach that won't significantly improve the environment. Others say restricting straws hurts disabled people who rely on them.

However, the new state law doesn't ban plastic straws outright like some cities have, including Manhattan Beach and Malibu. Major companies like Starbucks and Disney's theme parks have also pledged to eliminate the straws. The StubHub Center in Carson and the Honda Center in Anaheim have followed suit.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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