Straws

Santa Barbara Bans Plastic Straws, Authorizes $1,000 Fines and Jail Time for Violators

The California city has passed what is likely the most severe straw ban in the country.

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Verastuchelova/Dreamstime.com

Santa Barbara has become the latest city to crack down on plastic straws, with the city council voting to advance what is likely the most severe prohibition in the country. The law authorizes hefty fines and jail sentences for violators.

On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara City Council moved forward a bill that prohibits restaurants, bars, and other food service businesses from handing out plastic straws to their customers. Plastic stirrers and utensils could still be legally provided, but only if customers request them.

That a municipality would ban plastic straws is sadly unsurprising in the year 2018, when seemingly every city, celebrity, corporation, and cute kid with a nonprofit wants to eliminate the little suckers from polite society. Yet Santa Barbara's ban is notably rigid and punitive.

When Seattle became the first major city in the United States to ban plastic straws in September 2017, it carved out an exemption for compostable plastic straws and made any violation an infraction punishable by a $250 fine. Santa Barbara, by contrast, has banned even compostable straws, permitting only drinking tubes made from nonplastic materials such as paper, metal, or bamboo. The city also has made a second violation* of its straw prohibition both an administrative infraction carrying a $100 fine and a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Each contraband straw or unsolicited plastic stirrer counts as a separate violation, so fines and jail time could stack up quickly.

It may seem unlikely that Santa Barbara will start imposing the maximum penalties for scofflaw straw suppliers, but city officials are not ruling it out. Assistant City Attorney Scott Vincent tells me criminal charges would be pursued only after repeat violations and if there were aggravating circumstances.

Supporters of the ban paid little attention to its punitive aspects. Outside the city council meeting where the ordinance was voted on, an environmental activist spoke of the benefits that would accrue to the children. Inside city hall, actual children urged city council members to save the oceans by criminalizing straws, while the adults in the room applauded.

I have written at length about the dubious environmental benefits of banning straws, which make up a tiny fraction of plastic waste. In pursuit of those dubious benefits, straw opponents in Santa Barbara and beyond are willing to make more of their fellow citizens into criminals for victimless offenses.

CORRECTION: The original version of this post said that any violation of Santa Barbara's straw ban could trigger civil and criminal penalties, when in fact two violations are required before such penalties are authorized.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article said that the Santa Barbara City Council voted to pass a straw ban ordinance, when in fact the council had voted to put the ordinance on its consent calendar for the following week. The following week saw the council vote to send the straw ban ordinance back to committee so that amendments could be added. This article discusses the straw ban's current status in more detail.

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74 responses to “Santa Barbara Bans Plastic Straws, Authorizes $1,000 Fines and Jail Time for Violators

  1. Coastal California city passes no-real-effect law for social signaling? What is this world coming to?

    1. I know, right? These people aren’t doing nearly enough.

      Santa Barbara needs to step the fuck up. They need to ban all plastic from their town. Entirely.

      No plastic straws. No plastic bags. No plastic cups. No plastic lids. No plastic automobile parts. No plastic surgical parts. No plastic handles on tools.

      It might have some very slight negative impact on the community, but surely it’s worth it to save the planet.

      1. And close all hospitals and medical facilities; don’t forget all the plastic they use just to avoid a minor amount of infection.

      2. No plastic in their cell phones.

      3. Awesome comment

  2. Plastic stirrers and utensils could still be legally provided, but only if customers request them.

    “Could I please have one of those long, hollow-handled plastic spoons? Thanks so much!”

    1. How about hollow chopsticks?

      1. How about balloons? Oh wait-those are made of latex. Hey! Perfect, lets ban condoms, and surgical gloves too.

    2. Hopefully these customers will be put on a special list for further investigation, criminal sanctions and reeducation

    3. What about those spoon straws that you get with a Slurpee? Is it a straw? Is it a utensil? I’m so confused.

  3. Meanwhile, in plastic-straw-banned city, Council member has house broken into three times, his car broken into twice and house next door became drug house with needles all over the place, is “beginning to understand the frustration with crime and homelessness.” I guess he took some time out from his busy virtue-signalling to actually listen to what people are saying.

    Ballard’s homelessness quadrupled last year, and anger is spilling over

    In May, O’Brien faced a wave of anger and concern at a town hall held at Ballard’s Trinity United Methodist Church. People critical of the city packed the meeting, shouting obscenities and interrupting speakers for two hours.

    O’Brien was front and center at that town hall in May, and he says now that he understands the frustration with crime. O’Brien lives in Fremont, and he said his car has been broken into at least twice and his house three times. His bike was stolen two summers ago, allegedly by a squatter living in the house next to him, which O’Brien says had needles in the basement when police got in.

    1. Yeah, but ……straws!

    2. Meanwhile, in plastic-straw-banned city, Council member has house broken into three times, his car broken into twice and house next door became drug house with needles all over the place, is “beginning to understand the frustration with crime and homelessness.” I guess he took some time out from his busy virtue-signalling to actually listen to what people are saying.

      It’s all the Republicans’ fault, obviously. If only Democrats were in charge, they’d have homelessness, drug use, and crime fixed in a jiffy.

  4. “Bad news, Johnson. The court says we can’t ban guns.”

    “No? That’s a real shame. How about drinking straws?”

    “I like the way you think, Johnson.”

    1. Next on the agenda, banning the hollow tubes that make up the Internet.

      1. With a large exception for left wing commentators, and democratic campaign ads and fund requests?

  5. Fuck you Santa Barbara City Council, fucking progressive communists.

    I just bough a whole fucking case of plastic straws and I’m handing them out for free.

    Come and arrest me asshats.

    1. Great. Another straw man argument.

    2. Selling loosies on the streets of SB? I like where this is going.

      1. Rockabilly about to get choked out.

  6. This is insanity.

    1. I’m setting up my 3D printer to make tubes right now….

  7. “Use a straw, go to jail!”
    Has a certain appeal, no?

  8. “and a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Each contraband straw or unsolicited plastic stirrer counts as a separate violation, so fines and jail time could stack up quickly.”

    The ironic part of this is that if there were a march in Santa Barbara to protest overincarceration in America, the members of the Santa Barbara city council would be up near the head of the march. The lack of self-awareness here is astounding.

    1. Ouch!

    2. The lack of self awareness is standard operating procedure.

      1. Zen masters of cognitive dissonance.

  9. A totally irrational ordinance. Release the lawyers!

    1. Well, if anything, they sure fucking love science!

      1. Well, if anything, they sure love fucking science, hard!

  10. Congrats you asshole celebrities, you just made using a straw a criminal act based on specious science.

    Fucken jerk offs.

    1. Make that ‘you just helped make using a straw…blah, blah’.

    2. But… the left keeps telling us they are the science-based wing(nuts)!

      1. Because….97% CONSENSUS!

        1. Great another “reality” show, Celebrity Consensus.

      2. Nothing says science like a kids grade school project.
        For the kids, by the kids!

        1. Don’t forget some Hollywood pretty face.

    3. C’mon Rufus. You know as well as I that no one needs an eight-inch plastic straw.

      1. The science is SETTLED.

      2. We need to get to work on a federal assault straw ban.

  11. Stupid.

  12. What happens when an illegal alien has a plastic straw in Santa Barbara?
    Jail time? Is it too late to slip a few exemptions in the law?

    1. I saw an illegal alien and werewolf drinking with a plastic straw with Lon Chaney jr. at Trader Vic’s.

      Bunch of illiterates are in government.

  13. So…

    One of the groups that frequently comes into the crosshairs of these types of campaigns is the disabled. While certainly fringe cases to be sure, you do have a certain ADA law that mandates accommodation.

    I could see the disabled maybe traveling with their own private stash of straws, but as some disabilities aren’t readily apparent, this sets ups misunderstanding as a baseline and probably a few lawsuits to follow.

    Also, as plastic water bottles are one of the major contributors of plastic waste, what happens when straw users start giving the evil eye to the people with bottled water?

    1. It’s not just a matter of concern for the disabled. It’s going to have an impact on highway safety. It is impossible to tip your head back to drink from a straw-less cup while keeping your eyes on the road. I can do it easy as pie with a straw.

        1. That guy is hilarious. Thanks!

    2. “I could see the disabled maybe traveling with their own private stash of straws, but as some disabilities aren’t readily apparent, this sets ups misunderstanding as a baseline and probably a few lawsuits to follow.”

      Ever have fresh abalone steak, pounded tender?
      You can’t any longer unless you are capable of diving for it on your own, or happen to be ‘friends’ with those who can, and of course the *NEVER* would sell any of it at *ANY* price, right, black marketeers?
      I know may people who are incapable of both diving that deep and holding their breath that long. Care to tell me how the ADA does not protect those folks?

  14. Bad news for boba places in Santa Barbara.

  15. Bad news for boba places in Santa Barbara.

  16. Demand a jury trial. Make the state prosecute a person for giving out a straw.

    Get laughed out the Union.

    1. OR –
      Get praised by the main stream (left wing) media for forward thinking, earth loving, disabled hating policies that imprison right wing bigots.

    2. I mean, it’ll be funny enough to just make the police take it seriously. “Drop the straw! Stop resisting! GET ON THE GROUND!” I pray for video.

  17. There is no way in hell that i need special permission to comply with ADA and straw usage. thats fact that san diago will lose for now and forever

  18. Nothing in the Commifornia constitution allows for government to ban anything.

    Even the Prohibitionists knew they needed a constituional amendment to ban nationwide alcohol consumption.

  19. Do the eco/progtards realize that shit like this just might help Trump get re-elected. It may even cause the #BlueWave to crash early…

    1. Or convert it to a crimson tide.

  20. That’s the last straw.

  21. small business idea; stand outside restaurant and sell plastic straws.

    1. Looks like a Hihnsane post.

  22. its bad science like these that these straw bans are made of that make people question much science especially climate science which has more variables than all the sand in the world

  23. But did they grandfather in existing straws?

  24. I get the feeling that the next revolution won’t be fought over taxes or gun rights but something stupid like straws. We’ll be dumping boxes of straws in Puget Sound some day.

  25. BTW, “It shall be unlawful for any food provider or beverage provider to use plastic beverage straws, or to provide, distribute, or sell plastic beverage straws to any person.”

    Straw “providers” are still legal it appears. So you could legally set up shop at the mall and sell straws unless I’m missing something. Seems it’s only illegal for food and beverage “providers.”

  26. Dear Reason readers….

    While we here at the Santa Barbara City Council have banned plastic straws, we also recognize the potential danger in consuming drinks on the go without the use of those same plastic drinking straws….
    So the council has just passed a new law that states…All drinks must be consumed while stationary….

    You’re Welcome,
    Santa Barbara City Council

  27. In the same issue, you have articles on the death of Eric Garner, arrested while selling loose cigarettes, and a new Santa Barbara CA law banning plastic straws, with jail time threatened. Mr. Garner was an obese man in poor health.
    His passive resistance left the police with two options : removing him by force or backing down and letting him be. Given Mr. Garner’s physical condition, the chances that the use of force wouldn’t end well were high.

    What will happen if the first Santa Barbara scofflaw is also on the edge medically? Another Garner case is just waiting to happen. The solution is not to pass stupid laws.

  28. This country has become unhinged from reality.

  29. Obviously time for Santa Barbara to boycott and divest from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand, since these five countries contribute more than half the plastic found in the oceans worldwide.

    Plastic Pollution

  30. For a preview of the silliness of a straw and utensil ban, check out the City of West Hollywood’s ban on the sale of fur clothing, which led to a hearing in which a citation was dismissed because the code enforcement officer who wrote the ticket didn’t actually witness a real hand-to-hand sale — he just saw the illicit goods on display with a price tag. It’s like a scene from “The Wire,” but with some stupid boots.

    http://tiny.cc/4eqxvy

    To bust retail criminals for trafficking in illicit sporks, Santa Barbara will have to actually have cops witness the transaction. Lord help me, I bet money on undercover sting operations. Great news for Eric Garner’s ghost: We’ve found something sillier than having armed cops enforce a loosie ban. “Yo, broseph, I’m trying to get my hands on some drinkin’ plastic — do you know where I can score?”

    How does an undercover suit up for a plastic straw sting? This stuff is gonna be intense.

  31. I propose we start going to Amazon and sending the lawmakers who put this stupid bill in, 1000 count boxes of straws.

    Feel free to send them to
    Bryan Latchford
    735 Anacapa Street
    Santa Barbara, CA 93101

    Amazon has stupid cheap straws just search for them.

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