Straws

San Francisco Bans Straws, Cocktail Swords

Violators could be hit with $500 fines.

|

Nataliia Peregudova/Dreamstime.com

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to ban single-use plastic straws, making it the second major American city to do so.

The ordinance outlaws not just plastic straws, but also plastic splash sticks, toothpicks, and cocktail sticks, which would have to include those little swords and umbrellas. Other straw bans typically target food service businesses, but this one will prohibit anyone, including grocery stores and other retailers, from selling plastic straws.

"The negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics are astronomical," bill sponsor Katy Tang said in a statement. "San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change, and it's time for us to find alternatives to the plastic that is choking our marine ecosystems and littering our streets."

Like all good straw bans, the text of Tang's bill mentions the questionable statistic that Americans use 500 million straws a day. This statistic comes from a unconfirmed 2011 phone survey of straw manufacturers conducted by a 9-year-old. Market analysts think the actual number is far lower.

Violators of San Francisco's plastic straw/sword ban will face between $100 and $500 in fines, depending on the number of violations. While an explicit exemption for disabled people—many of whom lack the motor skills to drink or eat without a straw—is not included, the bill does say that "strict compliance" with the law is not required when it would "interfere with accommodating for any person's medical needs."

This makes it less punitive than the straw ban in nearby Santa Barbara, which has no disability exemption and even allows for the possibility of criminal sanctions. In other ways, though, San Francisco's straw ban is quite restrictive. Unlike Seattle's straw ban, for example, San Francisco's does not allow straws made from most compostable bioplastics.

The bill also includes a ton of other non-straw-related regulations aimed at cutting down on single-use food containers. Starting in 2020, event planners will now have to make reusable cups available for 10 percent of attendees. That same year, businesses will be required to meet yet-to-be-determined targets for using recycled content in containers, cups, and other "food service ware."

Tang's bill also restricts city departments' ability to issue waivers or exemptions for those claiming financial hardship.

A final vote enacting this ordinance into law is not expected until next week. But given the board's unanimous sign-off, this is a mere formality. The straw ban will take effect in July 2020.

As I've written many times in the past, straw bans are a useless environmental measure. San Francisco's is no exception. The United States is responsible for less than one percent of the world's plastic marine waste, and straws make up a tinier portion of this still. The best way to cut back on plastic pollution in the oceans is to improve waste management systems in China and other parts of the developing world, not to tinker with individuals' consumption habits in the States.

Despite the medical exemption, many disabled people will no doubt find it harder to have a drink out on the town. Able-bodied consumers will be inconvenienced too, although to a lesser degree. Meanwhile, straw-dependent bars, restaurants, and tea shops will see their costs rise even higher in the notoriously expensive city. These might not be life-altering hardships, but the government nevertheless shouldn't be imposing them on people.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

100 responses to “San Francisco Bans Straws, Cocktail Swords

  1. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted unanimously to ban single-use plastic straws,

    Not even a hint of doubt in their minds.

    1. How much is Big Straw paying you to pimp their product?

    2. The best ideas tend to have mass support.

      Sadly, the worst ideas also do.

      1. The difference is the best ideas just have a mass of people going out and doing it.

        The worst ideas have a mass of people threatening to kill you for not complying.

        1. Well spoke

    3. Then they came for the dental flossers?and there was no one left to speak for me.

  2. Defecating on the streets on the other hand will still be considered acceptable behavior.

    1. Lucky you.

    2. Well it will have to be as soon as they ban plastic ostomy bags.

  3. When some poor man dies, a cops boot on his neck, for walking down the street sipping water with a straw, will the city shake it’s head and claim that it was some completely unavoidable tragedy. Or perhaps, the city will ask and get more funding to prevent this from happening in the future.

    It can be hard to know.

    1. No, they will do what they usually do. Talk about HOW the police officer behaved rather than WHY s/he initiated contact with the person in the first place. I would wager 98% of most people don’t really understand that bans, city codes, laws, rules, etc. are enforced at the end of a gun.

    2. Life is tough for the liberal when revered social fetishes collide.

  4. I cant wait to go to San Francisco. I will order a handful of straws and cocktail swords and throw them all in the shit stained street.

    1. Haha. You will look insane, but I would still tip my hat

      1. I will be wearing a Trump border wall t-shirt, so those fucking Lefties will know exactly why I am doing it.

        1. Whenever visiting the left coast, I will take a big supply of plastic straws with me. I will use them to drink any drink that I’m served, and then leave them at the restaurant. Imagine the consternation that doing so will cause the wait staff and mangers! What will they do with “plastic”? Will they throw it in the trash? Will they burn it? Will they put it through the paper shredder to hide the horrible evidence? It will be nice to slip one or two into the straw dispenser, knowing that someone will have a special treat by getting to use a real, functional straw.

          When leaving a hotel room, I’ll leave a tip for the maid as I always do. In addition, I’ll leave a nice, fresh, sanitary, paper wrapped straw. We must smuggle them in to the deprived population in any way that we can. Question: Will California ban the online sale of plastic straws? If not, their ban will be subverted as the general population simply learns to take a functional, plastic straw with them when visiting a restaurant.

          1. A hundred years from now kids will learn the story of Johnimo the Straw Man.

            1. Touche, Agammamon! You made me laugh! Thanks.

        2. Don’t do it for Trump man. This is a genuinely non-partisan idea that we can all get behind. Start a Go-Fund Me to raise funds to cover the trip.

    2. Can you link to your GoFundMe page, please?

  5. Goddamnit.

    [unties cocktail from the hilt of sword]

  6. Where is the disabled womyn supposed to buy her straw?

  7. The best way to cut back on plastic pollution in the oceans is to improve waste management systems in China and other parts of the developing world, not to tinker with individuals’ consumption habits in the States.

    The Third World drinks your milkshake. They drink it up!

    1. Ugh. Now I want a milkshake. Except its 10 at night and still over 100 degrees outside.

  8. First straws. Then ICE. At what point will our right to a cool refreshing drink be safe from these monsters?

  9. “Excuse me sir, if you could just step over the feces and needles and hand me that straw before someone gets hurt.”

  10. The bill also includes a ton of other non-straw-related regulations aimed at cutting down on single-use food containers. Starting in 2020, event planners will now have to make reusable cups available for 10 percent of attendees. That same year, businesses will be required to meet yet-to-be-determined targets for using recycled content in containers, cups, and other “food service ware.”

    Because washing all of those containers will have no effect on water use or the amount of water waste.

    1. And, rest assured, catering companies are rock solid on actually cleaning shit that well.

      It’s sad that the only effective recycling done in SF involves human bowels.

  11. The best way to cut back on plastic pollution in the oceans is to improve waste management systems in China and other parts of the developing world, not to tinker with individuals’ consumption habits in the States.

    China’s already going down that road by no longer taking America’s garbage.

  12. See? This is what happens when you fail to use woodchippers for their proper political purpose.

  13. Then don’t hand out straws, hand out kid-friendly toy building pieces. Put a piece of wood with holes drilled into it various angles on each table that straws can fit into and that can yield numerous shapes. Fun for the whole family! And if someone uses one to drink with, well, what can you do?

    And those aren’t cocktail swords they’re complementary micro-pirate gear.

    Cocktail umbrellas? Not here, these all have copies of the Bill of Rights on them. They’re educational, pocket-sized, conveniently foldable versions of one of our most important documents!

    1. I like the cut of your jib, good sir!

  14. Put the straw down and step away from the boba. STOP RESISTING!

    1. Don’t tase me, bro! Aaaaaaaaahhh!

  15. The negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics are astronomical,”

    Isn’t the impact like .01% of .03% of plastic in the ocean?

    1. So it’s the transgenderism of pollution?

      1. Well…yeah. It also has no scientific basis. Excellent analogy.

    2. Mommy, why does San Francisco throw their used straws in the ocean?

  16. “San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change…”

    Translation: We’re the wokiest.

  17. “This makes it less punitive than the straw ban in nearby Santa Barbara,”

    Santa Barbara isn’t anywhere near San Francisco.

    1. Speaking from the East coast, I disagree.

      1. Yeah – same state. *shrug*

    2. Don’t tell that to the forward-looking people in Santa Barbara.

  18. These laws will start to be repealed when it turns out that minorities are disproportionately flagged for violations.

    1. LOL when does that EVER happen

  19. Surely at some point this insanity ought to cause the 8th amendment to kick in.

    ” “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” ”

    Any punishment more than a mildly ironic tongue lashing (Wait, this is SF, maybe some other term is in order.) is excessive for such trivial offenses.

    I know the Supreme court hasn’t entirely incorporated the 8th amendment, but neither have they ruled it isn’t. This might be a good test case.

    Or, I don’t know, maybe it’s just time to nuke CA from orbit before the insanity spreads further.

  20. So when the employees banned from company cafeterias must go outside to the deli to buy lunch in San Francisco,how many will then use a plastic bag, fork, knife, or spoon, and a styrofoam plate or cup?

    1. I am sure those will be next on the “to be banned” list

    2. It doesn’t matter if It’s rational. It’s how it makes you FEEL. Sigh

    3. They will require the use of edible plates and cutlery.

  21. Sheesh-10 or 20 years ago, these kind of shenanigans that the SF city government is engaged in would have been something you would see only on South Park.

    1. Or F Troop.

      1. F Troop on a bad day is saner that SF on a good day.

    2. Wait, isn’t South Park just up from Daly City or am I thinking of the Cow Pattie Palace?

  22. It’s a thirty-year-long episode of Amok Time in SF. Never call it Frisco. Locals consider that plebeian.

    1. The Hells Angels like calling it Frisco. I don’t think too many people chastise them about it.

  23. While an explicit exemption for disabled people?many of whom lack the motor skills to drink or eat without a straw?is not included, the bill does say that “strict compliance” with the law is not required when it would “interfere with accommodating for any person’s medical needs.”

    They may not require strict compliance, but why the fuck would any restaurant keep straws around for anyone if there’s a chance that handing one to the wrong person (Someone not “legitimately handicapped”? I dunno, how would SF even determine?) would cost them $500?

    1. Because, at the very same time, not handing one to the “right” sort of person would also cost them big bucks.

  24. But not sword fighting, if you know what I mean, Sin Francrisco.

    1. I Googled, “San Francisco Bans Straws, Cocktail Swords” to find out. Those pics were … um … interesting.

  25. The Left Coast is undergoing an epidemic of Mass Hysteria.

  26. I like it. Fuck San Franciscans they deserve all the retarded laws the assholes they elect can come up with.

  27. So embarrassing. There should be an opportunity here, though, e.g., re-package regular straws as “multi-use,” use canned marketing buzzwords, throw up a page on Shopify and Amazon, donate $1 to some ridiculous eco-project, etc.

    Literally make those San Franciscans pay!

    1. Relatives outside of California will become enablers, sending their California dwelling family members boxes of plastic straws. The fact is that anytime a government becomes so oppressive that it concerns itself with something as ridiculous as paper versus plastic straws … it’s just asking to be fucked with. And that’s what we’re going to do: FUCK with California!

  28. Never mind California secession; what is the procedure for throwing them out of the union?

    1. Difficult to do officially, but the informal procedure is to turn roads into pedestrian plazas so that out of towners give up on traveling there and vice versa. Manhattan is on that trajectory.

  29. Gonna be plenty rough on tiki bars, as straws are pretty much necessary to drink through all the fruit and umbrellas covering the top of the glass.

  30. SF is a sewer. Now that we’ve eliminated the plastic straws, can we address some of the other problems?

  31. San Francisco should pick up all the used syringes laying around, break off the needles and pull out the plungers. Give them a quick rinse, and they can be used as straws.

  32. http://time.com/5335955/plastic-straws-disabled/
    .
    ‘Disabled People Are Not Part of the Conversation.’ Advocates Speak Out Against Plastic Straw Bans

    1. So what are open dates on pool for the ADA lawsuit against St. Frisco?

  33. Stephen Hawking

    1. Is dead. No standing to sue.

  34. How many people will get sick drinking from those “reusable cups” at events? Maybe a 9-year-old should perform a study….

  35. Here’s a fun craft for you and the kids to try at home!

    Step 1: Construct a safe space or an abortion clinic entirely out of plastic drinking straws.
    Step 2: Stand back and watch a liberal’s head explode.

    Enjoy!

    1. Actually, such facilities use a variant of the disposable straw in the form of a suction tip called a YANKAUER suction tip. The should be affected as well!

  36. . . . the bill does say that “strict compliance” with the law is not required when it would “interfere with accommodating for any person’s medical needs.”

    Oh, that’s a thing of beauty right there.

    1. You’re going to have to keep a stash of illegal straws on hand in order to accommodate your ‘disabled’ customers.

    2. You’re going to be held liable for determining someone’s ‘need’ for accommodation.

    3. There is no useful guideline for determining how to stay within the bounds of the law.

    So you’ll screwed for giving or not giving straws that you’re not supposed to have to people who don’t need/need them depending on an after-action review by a court.

    1. – And this in a city with more lawyers than stoplights.

  37. My GAWD!

    Do these fools not realize that by outlawing plastic drink swords, they will kill the TIKI DRINK business?

    THIS IS WAR!

    Not to mention a personal affront to Tiki Lovers everywhere.

  38. SF politicians have failed in so many ways. We should give them some slack and let them do something that shows they can make a difference like preventing 0.0000001% of the world’s plastic waste. Not only does this give them something to do, it slows down from doing something really stupid.

  39. It should be noted that paper straws suck.

  40. Airhead Katy Tang stated, “San Francisco has been a pioneer of environmental change”…

    Perhaps, she should work on a much more grievous environmental problem adversely affecting Frisco: all the human feces & discarded syringes that line the streets of this idiot’s “paradise,” blocking access to businesses, parks and people’s homes, all courtesy of their brain-dead embrace of the “homeless” who “suffer” from a self-inflicted life-style choice. No one put a gun to the head of these addicts, forcing them to start on their drug addiction — yet, we’re all made to suffer with their filth & choices & act like they’re such “poor dears” and allow them to continue fouling & polluting our world.

  41. Awesome. I’m going to sell bootleg straws down on the wharf.

  42. Disposable needles are mostly plastic. And needles are just tiny straws. So, are needles banned too?

  43. Why don’t they ban gasoline already and be done with it. This other shit is mice nuts.

  44. Shitting in the streets of San Francisco is A-OK — but you will be damned to hell if you use a straw. We have formally entered the Twilight Zone.

  45. The People’s Democratic Republic of San Francisco strikes again…

  46. “The negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics are astronomical,” bill sponsor Katy Tang said in a statement.

    So, what she seems to be saying is that the environmental impacts are so great as to now be affecting other celestial bodies? How far does this plastic waste problem go? Mars? Alpha Centauri? Andromeda? GN-z11? Fluidic space???

  47. I think single use latex and polyurethane items need to be next on the list.

    1. That’s an excellent idea. Abortions are much more environmentally friendly! We’ll just fund more of those. Well done, comrade.

  48. I work with individuals with severe physical disabilities. Many of them use straws to drink because they are unable to drink from a cup or glass. What short sighted laws like this will do is make it impossible for them to go to public restaurants any longer and basically reduce them to the status of second class citizens. The problem with this entire “ban plastic straws to save the ocean” movement is 90% of the trash that is in the Pacific is from Asian countries or falls from ships/barges hauling garbage. Banning straws and other plastic items in the US will do little because, we are not the source of the problem. Like greenhouse gases, countries like China and India with massive populations and little regard for the environment are the culprits and they refuse and/or exempted from any regulations or laws addressing environmental issues. China has done more to pollute the ocean off its coasts which have had major impacts on other nations and yet will the issue it raised, they simply respond “so what?” and the world does nothing.

    1. All true. And not to mention: how does anyone expect a toddler to get through ages 2-5 without a proper sippy cup, including plastic straw (I shudder to think what my grandson would have made of a paper straw)? But I forget: if any of these reformers had actual life experience to inform their decisions they would be a lot more careful being who they are.

  49. Has nobody ever found that a lid with a straw sticking out of it, snapped onto the cup of their beverage that is sitting in the drink holder of their automobile seems to be a safe way to quench their thirst while driving? Now the lid has to be discarded (plastic) so the beverage can be accessed but is now prone to spillage and could easily cause a collision! You must now put the cup in your face to drink and watch when you set it down and if you should get a lap full of ice and liquid you will react involuntarily. This seriously is now a hazard to motorists.
    And it all started because of a 5th grader’s flawed study of plastic straws polluting the ocean and our “leaders” are getting in line to pass the most insanely ridiculous laws known to man and this being just one of many.

    To all those in government: You are retarded beyond comprehension and are serious violators of the Law of the Land, a mistake that will turn and bite you, hard and viciously.

  50. Well, at least people are not crapping in the Streets of San Francisco !

  51. What do you call 20,000 politicians at the bottom of the Pacific?

    A good start.

  52. “This statistic comes from a unconfirmed 2011 phone survey of straw manufacturers conducted by a 9-year-old.” That’s proof enough for anyone who wants to ban straws.

    “Market analysts think the actual number is far lower.” That’s not proof enough for anyone who wants to ban straws.

  53. “Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day”, says a 9-year-old kid based on some phone calls he made to straw manufacturers. It only goes to prove once again that a lie travels around the world (at least once, may I add) before the truth has a chance to put on its shoes. And sadly, it demonstrates once again what an intellectually uncritical society we have become. And it can only get worse. That sound I hear like water circling the drain before going down the pipe isn’t coming from my kitchen or bathroom. And to think that we as a country were founded by political giants whose thinking was informed at least in part by The Enlightenment.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.