The proposal “straws on request” ordinance is
similar to the “water on request” restrictions
employed during the last drought.

During the depths of the most recent drought, many municipalities enacted restrictions on water use, including one somewhat symbolic method of conservation, restaurants giving patrons a glass of water only upon request.

Now, an Alameda grassroots environmental group is using a similar method to prohibit bars and restaurants from handing out drinking straws to customers unless asked.

A council referral placed by Alameda Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer on Tuesday’s agenda seeks to direct staff to study the proposal.

“By only providing straws on request, restaurants, bars and other food vendors can significantly reduce the disposal of single-use plastic. This simple action will reduce costs and can have incredibly positive, far-reaching effects on our planet,” wrote the Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda (CASA), in a letter to the Alameda City Council.

The group claims Alamedans use roughly 45 million drinking straws a year and they are often found as litter on city beaches. The Alameda public schools already prohibit drinking straws, wrote CASA.

In recent months, the Alameda City Council has heard referrals on issues ranging from declaring itself a sanctuary city, revising its rules of order, and protecting birds.

Some have criticized the amount of time expended on already lengthy public meetings and the council recently established guidelines for streamlining its referral process. One change sought for councilmembers to prioritize each referral.

Despite the varying degrees of importance within on a number of recent referrals, Spencer noted earlier this month that a referral asking city staff to examine the feasibility of raising the minimum wage in Alameda has not been discussed by the council since it was first placed on an agenda last fall.