Los Angeles City Council Unanimously Approves Straws on Request Ordinance on March 1, 2019

CITY HALL — In a move that further protects our local waterways and the Santa Monica Bay from the detrimental effects of plastic pollution in the environment, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell on Friday led his Council colleagues to approve a “Plastic Straws on Request” ordinance, with the ultimate goal of phasing out single-use plastic straws altogether by 2021.

Clean environment advocates were on hand during the meeting to support the ordinance. The bold move by the legislative body makes Los Angeles the largest municipality to establish a ‘Plastic Straws on Request’ ordinance.

“We are a coastal community with a responsibility to do better for our environment and set an example for other municipalities who might be considering this progressive environmental policy,” said Councilmember O’Farrell. “This can serve to motivate the industry to act faster than the law requires and invest in environmentally sustainable products. Many small businesses in my district have already taken the initiative to make a difference in our environment, and I know this policy will have a considerable positive impact on all of us.”

“I am tired of seeing plastic waste along our freeways and off-ramps, and this action today by the City Council will go a long way in the effort to make our environment cleaner for our children,” said Councilwoman Nury Martinez, Chair of the City’s Energy, Climate Change, & Environmental Justice Committee.  “By requiring customers to ask first, we are challenging them to think twice. And by thinking twice, maybe they will realize they can do without a straw.”

“Los Angeles will be a better city once we complete our shift away from harmful plastics, and this ordinance is another significant step toward changing the way people think about single-use plastics,” said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. “I thank Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell for his leadership on bringing forward a positive solution that works for our communities, businesses, and the environment.”

Both the State and County recently adopted a single-use plastic straw policy, however the Los Angeles City Council action takes things even further by requiring restaurants and fast food chains to withhold plastic beverage straws unless a customer requests them. In drive-thrus, the customer will be informed that they need to ask for a straw if needed.

A recent report indicates that Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws each day. Worldwide, plastic straws are among the top 10 marine debris items according to an environmental advocacy group [source].

The 5 Gyres Institute, Surfrider LA, and Heal the Bay attended the Council meeting on Friday to support O’Farrell’s initatiative.

“The vast majority of trash we find at our beach cleanup is single-use plastic,” said Shelley Luce, president and CEO of Santa Monica-based nonprofit Heal the Bay. “So this is a great step forward for Los Angeles. The ordinance will result in less waste in landfills, less blight in our neighborhoods and less trash in our rivers and the ocean.”

The ‘Plastic Straws on Request’ ordinance will take effect on Earth Day 2019 (April 22) for businesses with 26 employees or more, and all restaurants by Oct. 1, 2019. In addition, the Councilmember intends on a complete phase out of plastic straws by 2021, and is working with the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and the Department on Disability to address concerns and impacts.

The ordinance will now go to the Mayor’s desk for his signature.