Plastic straws may soon be on the chopping block. An NYC councilman is introducing a bill today hoping to ban the use of plastic straws in restaurants, bars, and cafes across the city — joining a growing national movement to mitigate the environmental impact of the utensil.
Councilman Rafael Espinal, who represents portions of Bushwick, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York, is putting forth the bill today. He tells the Times that it’s an urgent environmental issue, pointing to an incident in April where a whale washed to the shore of Spain with more than 60 pounds of trash inside of it.
Unlike other forms of plastic, plastic straws cannot be recycled, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society advocacy campaign Give a Sip — making them a top 10 type of debris that end up in the ocean.
If the bill passes, no food service business would be able to offer single-use plastic straws or coffee stirrers, and people who disobey the law will be fined, with the penalty starting at $100.
Though Espinal points to the whale incident as what prompted him, in fact, the no-straw movement has gained a lot of traction in the press in the last couple months. In January, a Southern California official suggested eliminating a customary straw at full-service restaurants, meaning people only got one if they requested it. Shortly after, Malibu officially banned plastic straws, and Portland restaurants and bars started a big movement, too.
In New York, dozens of restaurants and bars have said that they, too, are ditching plastic straws. Last week, Danny Meyer announced that Union Square Hospitality Group would also be replacing plastic straws with a “biodegradable alternative.”
Espinal says he doesn’t “believe there any huge obstacles,” saying it’s not a necessity for most people. But like with the proposed plastic bag ban and the styrofoam ban, it will likely still face resistance from New Yorkers and from the small business owners who make up a huge number of people impacted.
Plastic straws are cheaper than alternatives, and there’s a huge demand for them. One coffee shop manager told the Times that its customers will bring in reusable cups, but straws are out of the question: “Actually, if we run out of straws at a condiment station for, like, 30 seconds, there is an uproar,” said Emma Stratigos of Gregorys Coffee in Greenwich Village.