See this sign above?  Well that’s not the case anymore in NJ and it has not been the case since November of 2021, at least for plastic straws. That’s because the state’s Get Past Plastics Law which banned single use plastic bags at checkout and banned polystyrene foam in food service, also requires that plastic straws are only given out on request.

Food establishments are required to keep a supply of plastic straws on hand to accommodate people with disabilities who may actually need a straw to consume a drink, and for whom plastic straws work best. But there are no questions asked. If you ask for a plastic straw, you get one – disability or not.

We are sure that you have gone out to a restaurant or some type of take out spot since November ’21 and received a plastic straw in your drink without even asking. So, we want to let you know what you can do about it.  The NJ Department of Health is responsible for enforcing this law (since they are in charge of restaurant inspections) and they want you to email singleuseplasticstraws@doh.nj.gov and there is more on this page here.

Please make sure you have the name of the establishment and the date that you were served straws without asking. We think with a little bit of enforcement, we can do much better. Surfrider Foundation volunteers nationwide picked up 7258 straws so far in 2022. That’s over 14 straws per cleanup.

We will add that a business that uses paper straws, and puts one in every single drink served, is clearly missing the point.  The greater problem is single use regardless of material. That is why one of the criteria of our Ocean Friendly Restaurant program is paper straws on request only. Our (unscientific) guess is that if you only give straws to those who request them, you will give out 80% fewer straws. So, if you are a restaurant, whatever amount of money you spend on straws, if you implement a straws on request only policy – and teach your servers to abide by it – then you will spend 80% less money on straws.

And if you are getting plastic straws involuntarily, please email singleuseplasticstraws@doh.nj.gov

Thank you!