Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: Restricting single-use plastic beverage straws, beverage stirrers and beverage splash sticks (Int 0936-2018)
Overview: The New York City Council has voted to prohibit establishments from distributing single-use plastic straws unless specifically requested by the customer.
Location: New York City
Population: 8.2 million
Food policy category: Sustainable agriculture, environmental health, food services
Program goals: To reduce the use of single-use plastics that harm the environment and wildlife.
How it works: Plastic straws will no longer be distributed with beverage orders at restaurants or other eateries, but they will still be provided free of charge upon request. Self-serve stations, such as those at fast-food restaurants or cafeterias, will have to get rid of plastic straws and replace them with compostable ones. Plastic stirrers will be banned completely.
Progress to date: The bill was introduced in 2018 and passed on May 12, 2021.
Why it is important: Each year, people produce 300 million tons of plastic waste, and only nine percent of that is recycled. The rest is either incinerated (12 percent) or ends up in landfills or the natural environment (79 percent).
Single-use plastics, including straws, bags, and utensils, are often not accepted by recycling centers because they are too small for the machinery, and because plastic is so lightweight, small pieces can be easily carried by the wind into the environment. Plastic pollutes the ocean, and when animals ingest the plastic particles, they can become very sick or die.
Plastics do not break down on their own. Instead, they break up into smaller and smaller pieces until they become microplastics, tiny plastic fragments that are not visible to the naked eye. Microplastics are affecting our food systems by infiltrating soil and marine life. It is not certain how much plastic ends up in the food that we eat or how it impacts human health. However, the chemicals added to plastics are known to be detrimental to the human endocrine and reproductive systems and may even be carcinogenic.
Curbing the use and prevalence of single-use plastics will help to reduce plastic pollution and improve the health of animals, humans, and the environment.
Program/Policy initiated: The policy will go into effect on November 1, 2021.
Point of contact:
Councilwoman Helen K. Rosenthal
District Office Phone: (212) 873-0282
Legislative Office Phone: (212) 788-6975
Similar practices: In 2018, Seattle was the first city in the U.S. to ban plastic straws. It was followed by Washington, D.C. and Miami Beach in 2019. In 2018, California was the first U.S. state to ban plastic straws in restaurants.
Evaluation: Evaluation of the policy has not yet been conducted because it has not yet gone into effect.
- Current Research Trends on Plastic Pollution and Ecological Impacts on the Soil Ecosystem: A Review (Environmental Pollution)
- Evaluating Scenarios Toward Zero Plastic Pollution (Science)
- New Link in the Food Chain? Marine Plastic Pollution and Seafood Safety (Environmental Health Perspectives)
- You’re Literally Eating Microplastics. How You Can Cut Down Exposure to Them (Washington Post)
- Beat Plastic Pollution (United Nations Environment Programme)
- California Bans Plastic Straws in Full-Service Restaurants – Unless Customers Request One (CNN)
- City Council Passes Bill Limiting Single-Use Plastic Straws in Eateries (Spectrum News NY1)
- Council Passes Anti-Plastic Bill Banning Stirrers, Curbing Use of Straws (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)
- Goodbye, Plastic Straws: D.C.’s Ban is Now in Effect (DCist)
- Int 0936-2018: Restricting Single-Use Plastic Beverage Straws, Beverage Stirrers and Beverage Splash Sticks, and to Repeal Chapter 4 of Title 16 of Such Code, Relating to Rechargeable Batteries (The New York City Council)
- Microplastics and Human Health (Science)
- Roundup: New York City Clears Legislative Hurdle on Plastics Reduction (Waste Dive)
- Seattle Becomes First U.S. City to Ban Plastic Utensils and Straws (CBS News)
- Single-Use Plastics 101 (Natural Resources Defense Council)
- Want A Straw In New York City? Soon, You May Have To Ask (Gothamist)
- What are Microplastics? (National Ocean Service)