In the land of the free, waiters and waitresses who offer their customers an unsolicited straw could soon be facing up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Seriously.
Thanks to the state of California, who has outlawed everything from plastic bags to bathhouses, lawmakers have proposed a bill to cut down pollution by using cops to punish the service industry for senselessly providing customers with straws without the customer demanding one.
Ian Calderon, the Democratic majority leader in California's lower house, has introduced the bill which serves to create a police state inside restaurants.
According to the legislation, "This bill would prohibit a food facility, as specified, where food may be consumed on the premises from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless requested by the consumer. By creating a new crime and imposing additional enforcement duties on local health agencies, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program."
Those who violate this insane dictate would "be guilty of a misdemeanor with each offense punishable by a fine of not less than $25 or more than $1,000, or by imprisonment in the county jail for a term not exceeding 6 months, or by both."
Nothing Orwellian to see here.
"We need to create awareness around the issue of one-time use plastic straws and its detrimental effects on our landfills, waterways, and oceans," Calderon explained in a press release.
Instead of incentivizing the use of paper straws or other options, the state—which owes its existence to the monopoly it holds on the initiation of force—is choosing to fight the potential for pollution with the barrel of a gun.
As Reason reports, this isn't just Calderon's crusade. The California cities of San Luis Obispo and Davis both passed straws-on-request laws last year, and Manhattan Beach maintains a prohibition on all disposable plastics. And up in Seattle, food service businesses won't be allowed to offer plastic straws or utensils as of July.
While this law may seem totalitarian and utterly ridiculous to many, the fact is that it is gaining widespread support.
Even the LA Times wrote an article in support of this type of legislation. According to the Times, "A straws-on-request policy, which would be easy for restaurants to adopt, could make an immediate difference. Not only would it save food service providers a few bucks on overhead (bulk straws may be inexpensive, but they're not free), it would convey a potent message to customers about the little plastic tube's environmental cost they may not have previously considered."
As Reason points out, celebrities are jumping on the bandwagon too, "celebrity astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson (always up for a little chiding) and Entourage star Adrian Grenier have appeared in videos where an octopus slaps them in the face for using a plastic straw."
No one here is denying that the oceans are filling up with plastic. In fact, as TFTP previously reported, the problem has gotten so bad that scientists have predicted there will be more Plastic in the Oceans by 2050—than fish.
Right now, one garbage truck of plastic is being dumped into the ocean every minute.
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This disturbing reality is underscored by the recent discovery of another giant patch of plastic—bigger than Mexico—floating in the South Pacific Sea. It was discovered by Captain Charles Moore, who found the North Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997.
One million seabirds die each year from ingesting plastic, and up to 90 percent have plastic in their guts. Microplastic (resulting from the breakdown of larger pieces by sunlight and waves) and microbeads (used in body washes and facial cleansers) are the ocean’s smog. They absorb toxins in the water and enter the food chain, from the smallest plankton to the largest whales, as well as humans.
See? Plastic in the ocean is a very real danger to the environment and all life on the planet. But, are waiters responsible? Should they be thrown in jail for offering a customer a straw with their iced tea?
No, and anyone who supports such tyranny does more to hinder the progress of humanity than any waiter giving a customer a staw ever would.
There are solutions—outside of the police state.
The New Plastics Economy describes how to move from the ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model to a circular plastics economy, which is both environmentally sustainable and profitable for business.
And let’s not forget, there is an alternative with massive potential which is currently prohibited by federal government: hemp. One of the most useful plants on the planet, hemp has thousands of applications, including making plastic that is biodegradable and non-toxic.
But standard plastic is made from petroleum, and the fossil fuel industry has long had a stranglehold on government and the economy. So hemp—used by humans for thousands of years—was banned by the U.S. government (along with all forms of cannabis), even though it can't get anyone high.
Several states have legalized or are in the process of legalizing the production of hemp, despite federal prohibition. Only days prior to this writing, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress to legalize industrial hemp nationwide and bring this amazing plant back onto American farmlands.
Aside from a different economic approach, innovations like those of 19-year-old Boyan Slat provide feasible solutions to cleaning up ocean plastic patches. According to the Ocean Clean Up Group,
Slat’s concept uses the natural ocean currents and winds to passively transport plastic towards a collection platform. Instead of using nets and vessels to remove the plastic from the water, solid floating barriers are used to make entanglement of sea life impossible. By deploying the proposed system for ten years, almost half of the plastic within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch can be removed.
Also, on June 29, 2015, in New York City, Parley for the Oceans Founder Cyrill Gutsch discussed the partnership and showcased their first prototype product.
According to their website,
Adidas created a world first with a shoe upper made entirely of yarns and filaments reclaimed and recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gillnets.
The concept shoe illustrates the joint commitment of adidas and Parley for the Oceans and offers a first look at the kind of consumer-ready ocean plastic products that will be revealed later this year
We have reached a point where the ocean ecosystems that help to sustain human life can no longer be taken for granted. It is incumbent upon us to evolve from the disposable attitude that is represented so potently in our use of plastics. But this must be done without state coercion, otherwise what world are we trying to protect?