Skip the Straw, Please

Environmental Advocates Support this Bill

Explanation: 

This legislation requires that certain food establishments provide plastic straws, or straws made with alternatives to plastic, to customers only when explicitly requested or when the straws are selected by the customer from a self-service dispenser. By discouraging single-use plastic straws, this bill would take a step towards addressing the harmful accumulation of plastics in our environment.

Americans use an average of 500 million plastic straws per day, most of which is a convenience rather than a necessity. Most plastic straws are not recyclable and end up in our waterways and oceans. Plastic straws are harmful, even deadly, to birds, turtles, and marine life, and break down over time into microplastics that are found in our drinking water. They are one of the top 10 types of marine debris found every year during the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight).

This legislation would apply to establishments where food is consumed on the premises, such as restaurants, cafes, and the sit-down portion of fast food restaurants. Drive-through portions of fast food restaurants are excluded from the requirements of this bill. We recommend the following changes to maximize the bill’s benefit to the environment:

  • Require a full ban on plastic straws: Given that paper, bamboo, and metal straws are already available on the market, New York should take the most effective step to reduce plastic waste by eliminating plastic straws in most food establishments.
  • Remove the exception for straw dispensers: If plastic straws are to still be made available, they should be available by request only, and be discouraged from use as much as possible. This bill should eliminate the exception for plastic straw dispensers.

With only 9 percent of plastic being recycled in the United States, we need to find ways to decrease plastic waste that is proving to be detrimental for our health and our environment. Discouraging single-use plastic straws in New York State is an important step in this direction.

Summary: 

This legislation amends the environmental conservation law to require that restaurants only provide plastic straws to customers when explicitly requested, or when selected by the customer from a self-service dispenser.

Memo #: 

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