San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to adopt two ordinances that requires restaurants to restrict distribution of plastic straws automatically, unless a customer specifically asks for one. The ordinances will also limit freely distributing single-use plastic bottles and cups. The ordinances would take effect March 1. if the city formally adopts them after a second reading at a future meeting.
“The essential point is to show that the simple act of not using a plastic straw is one small way we can save our limited resources and help reduce the waste buildup in our landfills,” San Luis Obispo Vice Mayor Carlyn Christianson said. “It’s a gentle encouragement to get people to think about the idea of plastic as a non-decomposable substance and whether we really need to use it or not. It will also save the restaurants a little money since things like this add up.”
Under the new law, customers who dine in will only receive a straw if they ask for one. However, if the customer orders food to go, they will automatically receive a straw. Additionally, bins that automatically deliver straws will still be allowed because customers decide whether or not they want to take those straws.
To some restaurant owners, the impact of the “straws upon request” is little to none.
“It will not be too big of a difference as most don’t use straws anyways; however, at the end of the month we do go through a lot of straws so this change is important to decrease the plastic we put out there,” Eureka! general manager Milton Carrillo said. “Overall, the company wants to best serve the people, but also help the environment by doing small things like this. Times our efforts by 30 restaurants in San Luis Obispo and it does make a big difference.”
While most believe it is a positive change, some restaurant managers are not as optimistic. Michelle Rock, a floor manager at Charlie’s Place on Foothill Boulevard, said although the ordinance will help the environment, it will be a hassle for workers.
“It is mostly just a pain because of all the bar drinks we serve. Most people ask for straws, so it just creates an extra step because we end up having to get them for the customers anyway,” Rock said. “Ultimately, it will help the environment which is good, but for the employees, it’s just kind of annoying.”
To make the transition from single use straws and cups easier, the city also plans to increase the number of public drinking fountains to encourage the use of reusable water bottles.
Statewide, California may be following in San Luis Obispo’s footsteps as Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-California) introduced a “straw by request only” bill earlier this month.
“It is a small step towards curbing our reliance of these convince products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in customer attitudes and usage,” Calderon said in a statement to the State Assembly.
Correction: A previous version of this article said City Council will adopt the ordinance March 1.