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Following California's move to restrict the use of plastic straws statewide, the city of Los Angeles on Tuesday moved forward on a plan to enact an outright ban on the straws in local restaurants by 2021.
The state law to restrict plastic straws begins Jan. 1 and limits restaurants to giving out single-use straws only upon request of customers. It applies to full-service dining establishments but exempts fast food restaurants.
The LA proposal to ban plastic straws was advanced by the Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday. The council voted 12-0 to direct the city's Bureau of Sanitation to report back in 90 days on the feasibility of implementing a plastic straw phaseout ordinance by 2021, including looking at alternatives that restaurants can use such as biodegradable or recyclable straws.
"A two-year phaseout gives restaurants and bars the time they need to deplete their current inventory of plastic straws, and it gives the industry time to pioneer biodegradable and environmentally friendly alternatives for mass consumption," said Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, one of the backers of the ban.
Speaking before the vote, O'Farrell also said 90 percent of the plastics used by consumers are nonrecyclable items. He said plastic straws are not recycled in the city of LA because the sorting machines are not equipped to capture them.
The ban, which also could potentially impact fast food chains, must be presented to the council at a future date for final approval. The council also wants the city to mitigate any impacts a plastic straw ban might have on the local disabled community.
Several other cities in California, including Malibu and San Francisco, have passed outright bans against the use of plastic straws as well as other single-use items, including plastic utensils.
"The amount of plastic in our waterways and streets is staggering," said Councilman Paul Koretz, another backer of the LA proposal. "It's projected that by 2050 our oceans will have a larger volume of plastic than of fish, which is just unbelievable."
Environmentalists have been fighting to curb plastic waste found in oceans, lakes, rivers and even drinking water. The effort includes campaigns against single-use grocery bags and bottle caps.
According to the National Park Service, Americans use an estimated 500 million drinking straws every day, or enough to fill up 125 school buses. Some of those straws end up in the ocean where they cause harm to whales, turtles and other sea life.