California has just become the first state in the U.S. to ban restaurants from automatically giving out plastic straws with drinks. The new legislation will go into effect on January 1, 2019, and it will save hundreds of millions of nonbiodegradable straws from being thrown away and, eventually, entering the ocean. Plastic straws are just a tip of an iceberg when it comes to plastic pollution, but they are targeted for a reason – because of how small and lightweight they are, straws cannot be easily recycled and are not accepted by most curbside recycling programs.

The bill was signed into law on September 20, 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown, Eater reports. To be clear, plastic straws are not being completely banned from full-service restaurants, but customers will have to specifically ask for them when ordering a drink. The bill does not apply to fast food restaurants, unfortunately, but hopefully, this will be the next task on the list.

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“Plastic has helped advance innovation in our society, but our infatuation with single-use convenience has led to disastrous consequences,” Brown emphasized in the Los Angeles Times.

It is estimated that Americans alone use around 500 million straws every day, so it’s no wonder these plastics are found washed up on beaches and throughout waterways across the country. Once in the oceans, straws pose a particularly dangerous threat to marinelife – lest we forget the sea turtle with the straw lodged in his nose. In the recent months, steps aiming to limit plastic waste in the shape of straws have been taken by many businesses, including IKEA, American Airlines, Disney, and more, as well as by a number of governments.

Straws are used for a very short period of time, if at all – how many times have you gotten a drink with a straw in it only to take it out and toss it away without ever using it? The concept of giving out straws only upon request, as opposed to as the default, is a simple and effective answer to this problem, and it does not affect people who rely on plastic straws for medical reasons. Hopefully, more states will now recognize the need for a change of this kind – and follow California’s lead.

To find out how you can be part of the change and help the planet by reducing the amount of plastic you use, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!

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