Plastic Straw Ban: You Can Be Sent to Jail for Breaking the New Law in This California City

More and more cities and food chains are introducing a ban on plastic straws. However, one area in California is dishing out a harsher punishment than anywhere else for breaking the new law.

In June, the city of Santa Barbara passed a bill banning the distribution or sale of plastic straws at bars, restaurants and other establishments, with plastic stirrers and cutlery only available upon request.

The ordinance, which comes into effect on 2:01 a.m. January 1, 2019, does include exemptions in consideration of the Americans with Disabilities Act, answering previous criticism of the ban that says it does not take into consideration how some handicapped people require flexible, plastic straws to drink.

According to Reason, the city has made breaking the plastic straw ban as an administrative infraction, meaning those caught disobeying it a second time risk a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. 

The maximum penalty is in stark contrast to Seattle, who became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws in July. The maximum fine there is just $250.

However, as explained by Santa Barbara's Environmental Services Outreach Coordinator, Bryan Latchford, the hefty fine and possible prison sentence will only be implemented for businesses who repeatedly refuse to abide by the new law.

"Jail time or stiff fines are not the intent for first-time offenders," said Latchford told KEYT.

RTX5T3SA A woman drinks a McDonalds refreshment with a straw in Loughborough, Britain April 19, 2018. Santa Barbara in California is the latest city to impose a ban on plastic straws to help reduce waste. REUTERS/Darren Staples

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, only five restaurants within the city limits objected to the straw ban, which aims to significantly reduce the amount of plastic dumped into the ocean.

San Francisco’s board of supervisors also recently voted to implement a ban on plastic straws and carryout containers that contain fluorinated chemicals, reports Fox News.

"San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change, and it's time for us to find alternatives to the plastic that is choking our marine ecosystems and littering our streets,"  Supervisor Katy Tang said in a statement.

In July, Starbucks announced it will be phasing out plastic straws in its 28,000 stores worldwide in favor of a sippable lid made from recyclable materials.

“By nature, the straw isn’t recyclable and the lid is, so we feel this decision is more sustainable and more socially responsible,” said Chris Milne, director of packaging sourcing for Starbucks.

“Starbucks is finally drawing a line in the sand and creating a mold for other large brands to follow. We are raising the water line for what’s acceptable and inspiring our peers to follow suit.”

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