By Amanda Weston

Los Angeles is taking a strong stance against single-use plastic straws: the local City Council is moving forward with its "Plastic Straws on Request" initiative with an ultimate goal to phase them out completely by 2021.

"This has been a long time coming," Mitch O'Farrell, Los Angeles city council member, told Cheddar Thursday. "I wish that the city had acted 10, 15 years ago."

Los Angeles County currently requires all businesses serving food or drinks to ask customers if they want straws, instead of automatically providing them. The city is taking a step further ー to mandate that restaurants and fast food chains withhold straws unless a customer specifically asks for one.

The council voted Tuesday to request that the City Attorney draft an ordinance that will take effect next year. On Earth Day, April 22, the new straw policy will begin at businesses with 26 employees or fewer. All restaurants will follow suit by Oct. 1.

O'Farrell said L.A. is expanding on the state law, which doesn't include fast food restaurants.

"What I'm doing is I'm including all fast food establishments, and what we also are doing is we're taking it one step further than just request-only," he said.

O'Farrell said the response to the council's decision has been positive.

“The unanimous vote sends the signal that we are serious about slowing or eliminating the detrimental effects of plastics in the environment,” O’Farrell said in a statement after Tuesday's vote. “It also serves as a motivator for the industry to act faster than the law requires and invest in environmentally sustainable products.”

O'Farrell said the city was considering a plastic bag ban about a decade ago. While researching, he learned about a massive garbage patch of plastic and debris in the Pacific Ocean roughly the size of Texas.

He said the patch is now the size of Alaska.

O'Farrell added plastic straws are one of 10 items found on the beach every year when Heal the Bay cleans up. The straws become embedded in the riverbed.

"As a coastal city I believe we have a responsibility to lead by example," O'Farrell said of L.A.'s accountability.

The National Park Service reports Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day, enough to fill more than 125 school buses.

For full interview click here.