CATHEDRAL CITY — The much-maligned plastic straw is seeking a lifeline as the City Council positions itself today, Nov. 14, to discuss whether to introduce an ordinance to prohibit single-use plastic straws.

Such an ordinance would ban all city beverage providers from using, providing, distributing, or selling plastic beverage straws.

The question in large part will center on whether the City Council believes Cathedral City needs its own ordinance in addition to state law, California Assembly Bill 1884, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2019. The state law prohibits a full-service restaurant from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers, unless requested by the consumer after Jan. 1, 2019.

California is the first state to restrict the distribution of plastic straws at restaurants.

Mayor Pro Tem Greg Pettis requested that an item be placed on the agenda today to discuss whether the City Council would like to consider an ordinance banning the plastic straw.

If Cathedral City were to pass such an ordinance, it would be the first in the Coachella Valley to battle the straw. Some California cities that have already banned plastic straws and other items include San Luis Obispo, Malibu, Santa Cruz, and Ojai.

The city of Seattle banned  not only the plastic straw but also plastic utensils. Starbucks will stop offering plastic straws by 2020. American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have eliminated them from its flights. SeaWorld will remove straws and bags from its parks, and Marriott Hotels and Royal Caribbean will eliminate them from hotels and cruise ships.

A study group has recommended the City Council not enact an ordinance to the Cathedral City Municipal Code prohibiting a “Beverage Provider” from providing plastic beverage straws in Cathedral City.

In a blunt text message to Uken Report, Pettis said,, “I am not happy. We will see where the discussion goes.”

The study group unanimously expressed that:

  • The January 2019 state law will adequately address single-use plastic straws by consumers.
  • The beverage, restaurant and hospitality industry are changing to non-plastic straws, based on consumer demand (McDonalds, Starbucks, Marriot Hotels and others are already implementing changes.)
  • Education may be more effective than an ordinance prohibiting all plastic straws in Cathedral City. The Student Creative Recycling Art Program (S.C.R.A.P. Gallery)
  • SCRAP Gallery can be instrumental in changing the habits of the current and future generations, through student instruction and engagement.

The straw debate first surfaced during study session on Aug. 8 when the City Council asked for an ordinance to be prepared for consideration on Aug. 29. The Council tabled the Aug. 29 action and appointed Pettis and Councilmember Mark Carnevale to meet with a Plastic Straw Study Group, comprised of city business owners, to provide input on the proposed ordinance.

Staff contacted several city businesses and disability representatives to participate on a Plastic Straw Study Group. The study group met Oct. 17 with the following representatives: Carnevale; Steve Cox of Don and Sweet Sue’s; and Karen Riley, SCRAP Gallery. The group reviewed the California Assembly Bill 1884.

The Study Group also reviewed the Cathedral City proposed ordinance prohibiting a “Beverage Provider” from providing plastic beverage straws in Cathedral City. No beverage provider shall use, provide, distribute, or sell plastic beverage straws. “Beverage provider” means any business, organization, entity, group, or individual located in Cathedral City that offers liquid, slurry, frozen, semi-frozen, or other forms of beverages available to the public for consumption. The definition of a beverage provider would include; bars; convenience stores; festival and event vendors; fast-food and full-service restaurants; service clubs; and religious organizations.

The City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.