Los Angeles City Council Votes to Draft Ordinance to Reduce Plastic Straw Waste

Los Angeles City Hall

MEDIA CONTACT: Tony Arranaga - 213-473-7013

CITY HALL -- Los Angeles is now the largest city in the nation to move forward with a ‘Plastic Straws on Request’ initiative, with the ultimate goal of phasing out single-use plastic straws altogether by 2021. The initiative, spearheaded by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, was unanimously approved on Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Council.

Reducing single-use plastic waste has been a top environmental policy priority this year for lawmakers.  A recently passed state law is aimed at full-service, dine-in restaurants. The county is requiring all businesses that serve food or drinks to ask customers if they want plastic straws rather than automatically providing them. 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.  

“The unanimous vote sends the signal that we are serious about slowing or eliminating the detrimental effects of plastics in the environment,” said Councilmember O’Farrell. “It also serves as a motivator for the industry to act faster than the law requires and invest in environmentally sustainable products.”

The City plans to phase out single-use plastic straws entirely by 2021, which would give restaurants time to find alternatives to single-use plastic straws and stirrers.

“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,” said Councilwoman Nury Martinez, Chair of the City’sEnergy, Climate Change, and Environmental Justice Committee. “We are tired of seeing countless single-use plastics scattered along our freeways and off-ramps. Today’s action is one of many efforts that can help reduce litter in my neighborhoods, which are ground zero for the City’s waste stream.”

The Council on Tuesday voted to request the City Attorney to draft the ordinance that would take effect on Earth Day 2019 (April 22) for businesses with 26 employees or less, and all restaurants by Oct. 1, 2019.

"This is a positive solution to address the issue of plastic straws in Los Angeles and another important step toward changing the way people think about single-use plastic," said Councilmember Paul Krekorian. "Since the ban of plastic bags, we've seen how Angelenos have shifted the way they get groceries. People are more conscious about the environment, and Los Angeles will be a better city once we complete our shift away from harmful plastics. I thank Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell for providing us with an approach that works for our neighborhoods, our business community and the environment."

"The days of single-use plastics are over,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz. “We cannot recycle our way out of a fundamental design flaw problem. We must change our habits as we did with plastic bags so we do not use increasingly scarce resources only once and so that we do not continue polluting our increasingly fragile planet simply for convenience."

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].

In January of this year, Councilmembers O’Farrell and Nury Martinez co-introduced a motion to create a citywide ordinance requiring restaurants and food service providers to distribute plastic straws by request only. The motion also called on the Bureau of Sanitation to report on options that business owners may use as an alternative to plastic straws, such as biodegradable or reusable straws. The Departments, along with the assistance of a working group from the community, will also report on an exemption for those with disabilities.