Santa Barbara Raises Stakes For Straws With Jail Time

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Since then, Starbucks and Marriot announced plastic straws and stirrers would be removed from their businesses. They save time (hello, throwing dishes away instead of washing them), and they decrease clutter (no need to store those cups in your cabinets).

The first violation of the straw ban draws a warning.

On July 24, San Francisco took the first step to join the movement when city supervisors unanimously approved a ban on plastic straws and takeout containers treated with fluorinated chemicals. Providers can use non-plastic alternatives, including paper, sugar cane, or bamboo; however, they can only offer them to customers if the customer requests a straw.

To justify the ban, the ordinance cites Santa Barbara's "clean and healthy environment", the burden on landfills and the potential danger to both "local wildlife habitat" and the "marine environment". A Santa Barbara spokesperson says the municipal code does state a violation could land the provider in jail for up to 6 months and lead to a fine up to $1,000; however, there are no plans to actually enforce that penalty.

While you ponder the latest crusade to make the plastic industry the new whipping boy, consider that single product bans rarely succeed in achieving its primary objective - reducing plastic waste. Disney eliminating plastic drinking straws may cause a bit more blowback, but the company is focused on being cleaner and more environmentally friendly. In any event, there is no reason that so many drinks have to be consumed through a straw.

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While other bans-like the one that Seattle recently passed-have included dispensations for consumers with disabilities, the present text of the Santa Barbara ordonnance contains no such exception.

Most supporters of the plastic-straw ban believe that the straws are a significant contributor to the problem of plastic pollution of the world's oceans.

But none have raised the specter of jail time for straw scofflaws before Santa Barbara.

But those bans may also make life more complicated for disabled people.