Plastic Straws Are Being Banned Across the West—Here’s Our Guide to Where and How
Plastic straw bans are being passed, and they differ by state, county and city.
You may have heard of the havoc that straws can wreak upon marine animals and ecosystems (the turtle straw and Trash Island, anyone?). Not only do plastic products like straws get stuck in animals’ respiratory systems, but also they never biodegrade, instead breaking down into microplastics, small plastic pieces measuring less than five millimeters. These tiny pieces are then fatally ingested by birds and sea turtles, and enter our water supply.
A few maverick cities have already enacted bans or restrictions on plastic straws, but 2019 may be the year that plastic straws fall like dominoes. This year, several cities across the West are putting into effect new plastic straw bans—in particular, coastal cities, which see trash wash up every day on their beaches. Straw bans are also entering the corporate mainstream—Starbucks is going truly green with a no-straw policy by 2020.
Find our guide to the latest laws below (we’ll keep you updated here with fresh information on new straw restrictions as they occur).
State of California
Starting January 1, 2019, full-service restaurants in California were required to only provide plastic straws upon request. The state-wide law does not apply to fast-food restaurants, delis, coffee shops, and other non-full-service restaurants.
County of Los Angeles
L.A. County voted for new straw laws in December 2018. County-wide, restaurants must first ask whether customers want a straw.
City of Davis
Starting September 1, 2017, full-service sit-down restaurants in Davis began providing straws only upon request. The ordinance did not affect fast-food, deli, or takeout orders.
City of Del Mar
As of April 3, 2019, plastic straws and stirrers are completely banned in Del Mar, and even reusable or biodegradable straws must only be given out only by request.
City of Los Angeles
The L.A. City Council approved a plastic straw restriction on February 22, 2019, but the rollout will be gradual. Restaurants with 26 or more employees have until Earth Day, April 22. All other restaurants need to comply by October 1.
City of Malibu
Malibu will ban all single-use plastic, including straws, stirrers, and silverware, by June 1, 2019. Even non-plastic straws will only be available at restaurants by request.
City of San Francisco
Starting July 1, 2019 under the Single-Use Foodware Plastics, Toxics, and Litter Reduction Ordinance, San Francisco will no longer allow plastic straws and takeout containers. Starting January 1, 2020, containers and wrappers with toxic fluorinated chemicals will also be banned. Alternative straws and compostable containers must be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).
City of San Luis Obispo
As of March 1, 2018, single-use straws were made available only upon request in San Luis Obispo. The ordinance does not apply to take-out orders.
City of Santa Barbara
On July 1, 2019, Santa Barbara will ban plastic straws and stirrers for both takeout and dine-in establishments, while allowing for plastic silverware upon request. Hospitals and care facilities, as well as those who need straws for medical reasons, are exempt.
City of Santa Monica
Santa Monica began banning all single-use plastic, including straws, lids, utensils, plates, bowls, trays, containers, stirrers, cups, and lid plugs, as of January 1, 2019. All food and beverages must now be served with marine degradable packaging, including paper, fiber, wood, wheat straw/straw, bagasse, or edible material, and even marine degradable straws and silverware can be provided only upon request. Plastic cups and cup lids get to slide by until January 1, 2020, since market-ready environmental cups and lids are in short supply. The city hopes to go zero-waste by 2030 through composting and recycling.
State of Oregon
Oregon could become the second American state to restrict straws. Oregon’s Senate passed a measure on April 11, 2019 requiring restaurants to provide customers with straws only upon request. The measure now heads to the House of Representatives for a vote.
City of Portland
Plastic straws and cutlery will only be available by request in Portland beginning July 1, 2019.
City of Seattle
Seattle banned plastic straws and silverware starting July 1, 2018. Seattle’s law applies to all food service establishments, including restaurants, grocery stores, delis, coffee shops, food trucks, and institutional cafeterias. EPS foam containers and products are also banned. Within city limits, recyclable and compostable food service items are required for all disposable items. Recycling and compost bins are also required in both dining and kitchen areas, and recycling and composting collection are mandatory for all food establishments.