Last Wednesday, May 12th, the New York City Council passed Intro 936-A, the Plastic Straws Ban. This bill will restrict food-service establishments from providing single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and splash sticks to customers, with the exception of straws upon request. Food-service establishments will be required to stock non-compostable plastic straws to fulfill customer requests and would have to post signs advertising the straws’ availability at self-serve stations. Compostable plastic straws will be permitted to be given out upon request only for use on-premises, and only if the foodservice establishment properly separates and disposes of those straws through a commercial composting provider.
Plastic straws are made up of polypropylene, a material that breaks down over thousands of years but never biodegrades fully. Much of this plastic breaks down into smaller particles, known as “microplastics”, which release harmful chemicals into the water and are ingested by aquatic birds and other marine life.
Single-use plastics are only used for very short periods of time by consumers before being disposed of, where they then pollute streets and waterways or end up in landfills. Half of the plastic that we produce is used for single-use items, resulting in 8 million tons of plastic being dumped into our oceans every year. Straws, due to their lightweight nature, are one of the top ten plastic items found during beach clean-ups. According to the United States National Park Service, over 500 million plastic straws are used by Americans every day.
Requiring food service businesses to replace single-use plastic straws and stirrers in New York City with biodegradable or recyclable alternatives will drastically cut the city’s plastic output that reaches both our landfills and oceans.
Intro 936-A has been on our NYC Council Environmental Scorecard for a few years now so we are very happy to see it move forward. This is a big step towards achieving zero waste and a win for the environment. Councilmember Rosenthal and Speaker Johnson were the champions of this bill, it passed with a vote of 43-4.