The Last Straw

California mulls over a law that's crazy even by West Coast standards.

Picture the scene, like something straight out of Miami Vice: At your favorite restaurant, sitting in your usual booth--it's date night, or family night, or whatever gets you out of the house on a Friday night for some two-for-one drink specials and a Bloomin' Onion. A server, replete with flair, approaches your table with the margaritas you ordered, setting them down in front of you as a tiny burst of tequila and lime tickles your senses. Then she does the unthinkable. She slips a couple of straws from her apron pocket and puts them on the table--without you asking first!

"It's going down," says a voice from two booths over, and suddenly ten cops appear out of nowhere with guns drawn. One of them then grabs the server and cuffs her on the spot, rattling off her Miranda rights as he drags her off to an awaiting police car. That's when you spot the lead detective--a dark, brooding figure standing off by himself, next to the pot vending machine by the men's room door.

Approaching cautiously, you go over and ask him, "How do you do it, day after day?"

"It's my job," he replies, lighting up a doobie he got from the machine, and then walking out into the cool California night on the way to his next bust--a Denny's down on Melrose.

Sound farfetched? Well it might not be, if a certain Golden State legislator gets his way:

“We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans,” stated Majority Leader [Ian] Calderon. “AB 1884 is not ban on plastic straws. It is a small step towards curbing our reliance on these convenience products, which will hopefully contribute to a change in consumer attitudes and usage.”

And, to be sure, AB 1884 isn't an actual ban on plastic drinking straws. It's something much stupider. It criminalizes the handing out of drinking straws in restaurants unless a customer specifically requests one. In other words, if Alfonse down at Mama Mia's Pizza and Pasta drops a straw in your Cherry Coke without you asking, he could be subject to a $1000 fine and even some time in the hoosegow sharing a dirty toilet with a guy whose street name is "El Choppo."

But don't worry, it's all cool because the environment:

An estimated 500 million straws are used in the United States every day. This number is enough to fill over 127 school buses each day and is calculated to be about 1.6 straws per person in the U.S. In a summary of all trash collected as part of California’s Coastal Cleanup Day between 1989 and 2014, straws and stirrers rank as the 6th most common item collected. AB 1884 is a step toward lowering these alarming figures and is a simple way for consumers to change their plastic use behavior.

Um, 500 million straws--per day? Doesn't that sound a little extreme? By this press release's own calculations, that would mean the volume equivalent of over 46,000 school buses would be getting dumped over the United States every year. Wouldn't we be drowning in straws by now?

The very patient folks at thought so, and did.a little digging on that number. It turns out:

The 500 million figure is often attributed to the National Park Service; it in turn got it from the recycling company Eco-Cycle.

Eco-Cycle is unable to provide any data to back up this number, telling Reason that it was relying on the research of one Milo Cress. Cress—whose Be Straw Free Campaign is hosted on Eco-Cycle’s website—tells Reason that he arrived at the 500 million straws a day figure from phone surveys he conducted of straw manufacturers in 2011, when he was just 9 years old.

Makes sense. Next thing you know, California will pass a law giving 9 year olds the right to vote--but only if they're good little environmentalists like Milo.

At any rate, how would California enforce such a law even if it manages to pass? Will a customer have to lodge a complaint? What if the server denies the charge? Will there have to be witnesses to the event in question? Are bendy straws exempt? The list of questions goes on and on.

If you ask me, California would better serve its citizens by banning Burger King french fries. Those are a real crime.

No. 1-11

Sure, AB1884 is not a wise move but the Marijuana comments show your sheer ignorance.


I met many Christians when I signed books, and attended Greg Laurie's church in California. Their faith humbled me. It's not easy to be a Christian there as it is here in the Bible Belt. God bless you!


Mike R - Please don't wish California out of the Union. There are many Christians who are wholly committed to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and we aren't any happier about this idiotic law than any of you. I


Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”
― C.S. Lewis