NYC businesses need to take the plastic straw ban seriously


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The Editorial Board

New York City restaurants and cafes can no longer provide free singleuse plastic straws except upon request, for free, since Nov. 1. They are also not allowed to provide single-use plastic stirrers. Eateries can instead provide compostable straws and beverage stirrers made from paper and wood.

Enforcement will not begin until November 2022, after which  establishments will be fined up to $400 for any offenses.

While some may consider these laws to be a regulatory overreach, restaurants should take them seriously to reduce plastic waste. Over 500 million plastic straws are used in the United States, enough to fill 127 school buses, according to, a zero-waste and recycling nonprofit.

While other plastic materials, like beverage and laundry detergent containers are recyclable, plastic straws cannot be reused or recycled. Most plastics are not biodegradable either; they remain in landfills for centuries.

Discarded plastic straws also pollute beaches across the world. Although they are only 0.025% of ocean plastic, ending their use can be easy and prevent further damage to marine wildlife. An estimated 70% of seabirds and 30% of turtles have ingested some form of ocean plastics, exposing them to toxins.

Restaurants should not acquiesce to industry arguments that argue plastic straws are cheaper than paper straws, more durable and can help the disabled.

Instead, restaurants should encourage consumers to purchase and carry reusable drinking straws, whether made of metal, glass, plastic or paper.

The demise of another pollutant, the plastic shopping bag, in New York is evidence that a law can be effective in reducing waste.

Shoppers are also now accustomed to bringing their reusable bags or purchasing those available from stores.

Other states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida and Rhode Island have considered similar laws to the New York City one. Seattle went even further and banned plastic straws outright.

Several companies have decided to limit their use of plastic straws including Starbucks Corp., Pret a Manger and Aramark Corp., moving toward plastic, straw-less lids that Dianna Cohen, CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, told NBC News are made of more plastic than straws.

The new law doesn’t go far enough in that it does not apply to straws sold in bulk by a manufacturer or provided with beverages such as juice boxes. Expanding the scope of the laws nationwide can also lessen the use of other single-use plastic items such as utensils, takeout and condiment containers and drinking cups.