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Approved Restrictions on the Provision of Plastic Beverage Straw, Stirrers, and Cutlery

This ordinance went into effect July 1st, 2019.

On October 9th, 2018, Santa Barbara City Council voted 6-1 to adopt an ordinance prohibiting the distribution and sale of plastic straws and stirrers as well as limitations to the distribution of plastic cutlery which can only be provided "upon request". 

Important Elements:

  • This ordinance went into effect at 2:01am on July 1st, 2019.
  • Food and beverage providers are exempt from the provisions of the ordinance when the plastic beverage straws, stirrers, or cutlery, are provided as a part of a product that was packaged outside the City and sold within the City (for example, selling a box of straws in bulk or a reusable plastic straw that comes with a reusable coffee cup).
  • The proposed ordinance includes exemptions in consideration of the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

Plastic Straw/Stirrer/Cutlery Ordinance: Business Fact Sheet (English)

Plastic Straw/Stirrer/Cutlery Ordinance: Business Fact Sheet (Spanish)

Plastic Straw/Stirrer/Cutlery Ordinance Exemption Request Form (English)

Plastic Straw/Stirrer/Cutlery Ordinance Exemption Request Form (Spanish)

-This ordinance went into effect July 1, 2019-

"Restrictions on the Provision of Plastic Straws, Stirrers, & Cutlery" Full Ordinance Text (PDF)

What does it do?

  • Prohibits food providers and beverage providers from using, providing, distributing, or selling plastic beverage straws and plastic stirrers to any person. Non-plastic alternative straws shall be provided only upon request.
  • "Compostable" plant-based plastic (PLA) straws and stirrers are also banned. 
  • Prohibits food providers and beverage providers from providing plastic cutlery to any person unless the person asks for them or "upon request".

What does it NOT do?

  • This ordinance does not restrict the retail sale of bulk plastic straws, stirrers, or cutlery at stores and supermarkets. These items are considered exempt as they are "products packaged outside the City and then sold within the City" and are included in the exemptions below.

Why are compostable plast-based plastic straws not permitted?

Polylactic acid or PLA is a plastic material made from plants instead of traditional petroleum-based plastics. If certified compostable, this material can only be composted in a commercial composting facility with high heat and processing. When these PLA straws get into the natural environment like our creeks and oceans they act like a traditional petroleum-based straw. There are currently no plant-based PLA straws that are certified compostable in a marine environment and therefore they are being treated as a marine pollutant. 

Who does this affect?

  • Beverage Providers - any business, organization, entity, group, or individual located within the City that offers beverages to the public for consumption. (E.g. bars, coffee shops, smoothie shops)
  • Food Providers - any person located within the City that is a retailer of prepared food or beverages for public consumption including, but not limited to, any delicatessen, restaurant, shop, caterer, mobile food vendor, or store or supermarket that provides retail to-go or eat-in food or beverage service.
  • City facilities or any City-sponsored event

What are the alternatives to plastic straws?

1) Reusable Straws are the best alternative!

For residents that frequent coffee, smoothie, or other beverage shops, we recommend making a reusable straw (and cup) part of your daily routine. Reusable straws are available at many retailers and come in a range of materials like bamboo, stainless steel, and silicon to name a few. If you bring your reusable cup, many vendors also offer discounts.

For businesses that offer beverages, providing a reusable straw that can be added to your normal dishwasher cycle will save you money over time. Reusable straws generally cost a little more money upfront but you will no longer be spending money on single-use straws that end up in the trash or the environment.

2) Single-use Straw Alternatives

If a reusable option isn't available, paper straws are a great alternative and come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. There are also thicker more durable paper straws for businesses that require a longer lasting straw. Paper straws can also be composted in our Business Foodscraps Program yellow bins.

What exemptions are there?

  • This ordinance does not apply to products packaged outside the City and then sold within the City. For instance, the following items are examples of items not affected by this ordinance: retail sale of boxes of plastic straws in bulk, pre-packaged straws on juiceboxes, resuable plastic straws sold with reusable coffee cups, etc.
  • Food or beverage providers are exempt from this ordinance in the instance that they provide, distribute, or sell a plastic beverage straw to a person in order to assure full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act ( 42 USC ยง 12102).
  • Financial Hardship or Practical Difficulty Exemption is available for food or beverage providers, for up to one year, when compliance would create undue hardship or practical difficulty such as when no alternatives are available or when such alternatives are not economically feasible for the food provider or beverage provider. 
  • Public Health and Safety Exemption is available for food or beverage providers when there is a public health and safety requirement or medical necessity to use the product. 

Exemption Request Form (English)

Exemption Request Form (Spanish)

What penalties are there?

Our Trash & Recycling business outreach team interacts with Santa Barbara businesses on a daily basis to address a host of recycling, foodscraps composting, trash service, plastic bag use, and nuisance topics. By practice, City staff works proactively to use education as a first line of compliance with all trash and recycling programs and it has proven successful for environmental programs. Our team will continue to educate and assist businesses in finding alternative products to gain compliance prior to the adopted ordinance's operative date.

The penalties for violation of this Chapter shall be as follows:

A. For the first violation, a written warning notice will be issued to the beverage provider or food provider in order to confirm their understanding of the ordinance and the potential penalties in the event of future violations.

B. The second and each successive violation shall be punishable by civil administrative fines pursuant to Chapter 1.25 of this Code (civil penalties referenced in Chapter 1.28 are not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for each day or part thereof that said violation occurs). This Chapter shall not be criminally enforceable.

C. Violations of this Chapter shall be deemed to create a public nuisance. The City Attorney may seek legal, injunctive, or other equitable relief to enforce this Chapter. Each and every piece of plastic cutlery, plastic beverage straws, or plastic stirrers provided in violation of this Chapter shall constitute a separate violation of this Chapter and a continuing nuisance.

Please see Ordinance Text for exemption specifics and request form, application overview, and approval process.

For questions about this ordinance please email:

Last Updated: Dec 6, 2016
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