Malibu Ban Envisions a Plastic-Free World

The city of Malibu has just said no to plastic straws and other single-use plastic restaurant items.

The Malibu City Council has passed an ordinance that prohibits the sale, distribution, and use of plastic straws, plastic stirrers, and plastic cutlery within the city, in order to protect the environment from plastic pollution. 

According to the city’s press release, an estimated 500 million plastic straws are used and discarded every day just in the United States. Trash tracking data gathered each year since 1992 at the annual Coastal Cleanup Day has revealed that plastic straws and stirrers are the sixth most common item collected, while plastic cutlery is the fifth most common. 

“On June 1, Malibu’s ban on single-use plastic straws and cutlery goes into effect,” Malibu Mayor Rick Mullen told the Messenger Mountain News. “This is one more variable in the equation of man’s effect on the environment [that] can be adjusted for the better.”

Mullen said he hopes that Malibu’s new ordinance will lead to other communities taking action. “We hope that other towns will be inspired to follow us and join in the effort to decrease the negative impact of plastics on the ocean and all its wonderful sea life,” he said. “We are lucky to live on this beautiful planet, so let’s take care of it.”

The Malibu City Council examined so-called “compostable and biodegradable” plastic utensils but made the decision to permit only non-plastic materials, once it became clear that even “environmentally friendly” plastics require special high-temperature composting processes to break down.

They concluded that a growing body of evidence indicates most plastic straws, stirrers, and cutlery never biodegrade. Instead, the plastic is broken down into smaller pieces, forming micro-pollution that is increasingly turning up inside marine organisms. According to the press release for the new ordinance, it is estimated that there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, a number that continues to grow exponentially.

Once the new ordinance goes into effect, the City of Malibu will only allow the commercial use and distribution of straws, stirrers, forks, knives, sporks, and spoons that are made from non-plastic materials, such as paper, wood, or bamboo.

To raise awareness among the business community of the need to eliminate single-use plastic straws, the city has announced that it will provide a box of environmentally-safe paper straws to each local food service business. “The paper straws, which carry the city’s ‘Keep It Clean Malibu’ slogan, will demonstrate to both businesses and consumers that the single-use plastic straw can be easily replaced,” the press release states.

Malibu city staff found that “although non-plastic alternatives, when similar quantities are ordered, the difference [in cost] is minimal. As it relates to straws, it is approximately $.01 more for paper straws.”

The new ordinance is the latest in a series of efforts to limit plastic pollution in Malibu. Earlier ordinances banned polystyrene foam, single-use plastic bags, and plastic sand bags. 


To read the staff report on the plastic straw ban, or learn more about Malibu’s efforts to reduce plastic pollution, visit


Suzanne Guldimann

Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting on local news and issues for more than a decade, and is the author of nine books of music for the harp. Suzanne's newest book, "Life in Malibu", explores local history and nature. She can be reached at

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