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San Francisco Lawmakers Propose Bill Banning Plastic Straws

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Dean Hochman / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The growing movement to stamp out plastic straws is spreading to San Francisco.

Supervisors Katy Tang and Ahsha Safai plan to unveil on Tuesday legislation that prohibits restaurants, bars and coffee shops from serving plastic straws, stirrers or cocktail sticks with beverages, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Instead of the disposable items, the lawmakers suggested businesses hand out compostable or reusable alternatives.


A number Californian cities, including San Luis Obispo, Davis and Malibu already have ordinances regulating the use and distribution of plastic straws.

"Why do we have straws all the time?" Safai told the Chronicle. "And if we're going to have straws, it's easy to have an alternative that's much more recyclable or reusable or washable."

In the U.S., an estimated 500 million plastic straws are discarded every day, which can pollute oceans and cause harm to marine life.

"It's sort of this moment where everyone is realizing just how many straws people are using on a daily basis, and that we really need to get a handle on this, or else our environment is going to suffer," Tang also told the publication.

This past Earth Day, volunteers picked up hundreds of pounds of plastic trash, including numerous straws and lids, polluting the San Francisco Bay, as Bay Keeper executive director Sejal Choksi-Chugh tweeted:

Notably, Tang and Safai's bill goes beyond plastic straws. Beverage lids, condiment packets and napkins would only be available upon request or at self-serve stations, the Chronicle reported.

Additionally, events on city property with 100 people or more must have reusable cups as an option for at least 10 percent of attendees.

If approved, the bill would take effect in July 2019. The city's Department of the Environment would help businesses comply with the new rule by providing a list of suppliers that carry approved products.

San Francisco has an ambitious goal of sending zero waste to landfill by 2020. The famously progressive city has already banned plastic shopping bags and polystyrene foam, aka Styrofoam. Sales of single-use plastic water bottles are also prohibited on city property.

*Note: The 500 million straws a day statistic stated in this article comes from the nonprofit Eco-Cycle. The statistic has been widely used in other media outlets including The New York Times, Reuters, CNN, as well as by the National Park Service. The statistic has received criticism, and in July 2018, the New York Times published a story about the debate, stating that "market research firms put the figure between 170 million and 390 million per day."

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