I’m not one to rant or rave through social media endlessly about politics or religion, and various subjects that I deem to be unfair, ridiculous, or just plain incorrect. I have a straight forward view of how I see the criminal justice system, law enforcement, forensics, and criminal investigations. I’ve never skirted issues, and for those of you who follow my blog or social media regularly over a period of time, know where I stand on most of the basic issues in my field.
I was born and raised in California—and I still reside in this big, amazing, confused, and often misunderstand state. I may not agree with the current politicians or their grievous tactics, but I do believe in the hardworking people who are trying to improve and keep the Golden State healthy, environmentally sound, and thriving as it should be.
This bogus “straw jail phenomenon” circulating about the State of California concerns me (wait, ticks me off)—not because it’s trying to do something helpful for the environment, but because not one news source, to my knowledge, or low-level politician, has reported the correct information. USA Today, LA Times, FOX news, Washington Post, and Forbes, to just name a few, have ALL stated that California is proposing jail time (up to six months) for a server to hand out straws to customers—without the straw being requested. The same story just carbon copied itself to every news agency, blog, podcast, and social media site. It took off like a California wildfire.
First, let me very clear. I’m in definite agreement that we have too much plastic waste and there are consequences on the environment and wildlife—and a clear strategy needs to be addressed. By something, I mean, a well thought out plan to begin to eliminate wasteful containers, plastic bottles, to-go containers, and yes, even straws.
Living on and near the California coast for most of my life, I have seen first-hand what trash, plastic, and environmental refuse has done to the beaches and wildlife. Let me give you an example—a firsthand account.
I worked for a company on the coast for several years and almost every day I took a walk along the beach and adjacent trails during my lunch break. I made sure that I had a medium-sized plastic garbage bag and by the time I returned to work—it was filled with garbage. Most items were plastic—Starbucks cups, lids, six-pack plastic tops, water bottles, soda bottles, plastic bags from the grocery stores, Styrofoam containers, diapers (yeah diapers, more than you know), and entire paper bags filled with the remains of fast food and their wrappers.
It’s truly disgusting what people toss out of their cars, leave in parking lots, and allow to blow along the beach because they are too lazy to pick up their trash. I witnessed a woman toss out a loaded baby diaper into the parking lot; she was less than twelve feet from a garbage can.
I’ve seen seagulls, otters, and pelicans, to name a few, that had become entangled in plastic, wrapped tightly around their wings, necks and legs. I’ve assisted in rescues to help capture wildlife, so that they can be freed from their garbage snares. It’s difficult and heartbreaking to see that our society has become so blasé about garbage—especially plastic. There are consequences for actions. Think before you toss your trash.
There has been a ton of misinformation making the rounds and I want to set the record straight. As for California and at the time of writing this blog post, please refer to AB1884 from the State of California government website. This is an assembly bill, which means it’s a proposal to change a current law. It still has to receive majority vote before it actually becomes a law.
For all of the chatter, hashtags, jokes, and outrage, there wasn’t anything mentioned in this assembly bill that had anything to do with jail time for handing out a straw. That jail notion was a fabrication—plain and simple.
AB1184 4271 (b) states:
“This section shall be enforced by an enforcement officer. The first and second violations of subdivision (a) shall result in a notice of violation, and any subsequent violation shall constitute an infraction punishable by a fine of twenty-five dollars ($25) for each day the full-service restaurant is in violation, but not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300) annually.”
To read the entire assembly bill: Go to the State of California government website and read AB-1884 Food facilities: single-use plastic straws.
As for the future of banning straws and coming up with sound and intelligent decisions about what to do with the excessive plastic waste in our environment—well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.