TRENTON — With the Legislature preparing to return for a fall session that could include a bill banning restaurants from providing plastic straws to customers, a state lawmaker is proposing an alternative he said would mark a step along the way: Only give plastic straws and stirrers to people who ask for them.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset, said he supports banning single-use plastics but that a replacement for straws isn’t yet ready.

“If we had a environmentally friendly, ready to go, mass produced item in place, I’m all for that. And I think we’re going to get there,” he said. “But in the meantime, I want to do something that would have an immediate impact, and that would be to change behavior as we head towards eliminating straws.”

Some people aren’t ready to give up plastic straws, either.

“That’s fine. People would like a straw for the convenience of drinking through a straw. That’s great,” Zwicker said. “I just want it to be one that isn’t going to have such a negative impact on our ocean and our landfills, something that’s environmentally friendly.”

Zwicker said some people with disabilities need a straw to drink, and some people prefer to use them.

“If you request a straw, you’ll get a straw. But you’re not going to get one just showing up in your drink, or two in your drink, and then you ask for another glass of water, they take it away and then you have a brand-new straw there,” he said. “So it will have an immediate impact.”

Zwicker said plastic straws have such a detrimental effect on the environment that they need to be replaced.

In last year’s Clean Ocean Action beach sweeps, straws were the fifth-most common item found, with more than 30,000 of them picked up by volunteers.

Zwicker said stainless steel straws that are sterilized and reused are starting to catch on but remain a novelty. Paper straws are also available.

Gov. Phil Murphy last week vetoed a 5-cent fee on single-use carryout bags, indicating his support instead for a ban that would also address other plastic waste.

State Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, who is among the sponsors of a bill banning plastic bags and straws, said the legislation would be a focus in Trenton this fall.

New Jersey: Decoded cuts through the cruft and gets to what matters in New Jersey news and politics. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at

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