TODAY, Thursday, October 17th, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer introduced legislation that would require food service establishments to only provide non-reusable eating utensils upon request for all dine-in, takeout, or delivery services. Customers would need to affirmatively opt-in to receiving non-reusable eating utensils with their food orders. This would apply to plates, bowls, forks, spoons, and napkins, but specifically excludes straws and stirrers.
Non-reusable eating utensils, predominantly made of plastic, have proven detrimental to the environment. Plastic utensils are not reusable or recyclable, so they are thrown away after one single use and end up in landfills. However, because they are easily disposable, plastic utensils often end up littered on the ground or in bodies of water. It is estimated that 40 billion plastic utensils are used in the United States alone each year. This is a complete waste that has led to the pollution of our waterways, the endangerment of wildlife, and the degradation of the environment. The process of producing billions of non-reusable eating utensils also has a high carbon footprint, which contributes to the existential threat of climate change.
“We must reckon with the harmful effects that everyday plastic utensils have on our environment and do everything we can to prevent irreparable harm to our oceans and our planet,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “The status quo of including plastic utensils in all food orders by default is unnecessary and unsustainable. We must put an end to this wasteful habit and have restaurants only provide plastic utensils to customers who request them. Adding a simple opt-in feature will go a long way to prevent the pollution of our ecosystems, protect wildlife, and combat climate change.”
“The scale of the climate crisis we’re currently facing is massive and demands immediate action. We as a City must do everything in our power in choosing to put our planet over plastic. In reality, it comes down to moving away from a culture of plastic convenience by adopting a habit where these plastic items are given on-demand instead of automatically. I’m proud to continue seeing through legislation that will lead us to a zero-waste reality, and thankful for my colleague, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, for introducing this significant step in doing so,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.
“Most New Yorkers have a drawer full of plastic take out utensils that they never asked for and don’t want. This bill will help stem the tide of plastic utensils that often end up littered in our sewers, waterways and beaches or have to be thrown away and trucked to landfills at taxpayer expense,” said Patrick Diamond, Vice Chair, NYC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.
“Single-use plastics are a scourge on our environment. They contribute to a disposable society, are rarely recycled, and pollute our land and waterways. Requiring that customers opt-in to receiving single-use items from restaurants will drastically reduce unnecessary plastic waste, which benefits the environment, gives New Yorkers the opportunity to make a positive impact on the climate, and can potentially save the restaurant money. We thank Council Member Van Bramer for introducing this legislation to help combat our waste crisis, and look forward to working together on this policy,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
“Plastic pollution is a growing problem with roughly 9 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year and massive amounts of plastic littering neighborhoods throughout New York City. This common sense bill will help reduce plastic pollution and save businesses money and I urge the members of the New York City Council to promptly pass it into law,” said Judith Enck, former EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics.
“We at NYLPI work with the frontline communities who bear the brunt of the mass amount of waste our City produces, of which single use plastics is a significant component. We applaud Council Member Van Bramer’s legislation to curb the use of single use plastic utensils in our City. This law will help New Yorkers to change their bad habits of tossing these plastics out and adopt more sustainable practices, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the process. We look forward to working with Council Member Van Bramer to ensure that this bill passes the Council and represents another step towards our zero waste goals,” said Melissa Iachan, Senior Staff Attorney, Environmental Justice, NYLPI
“Surveys show two thirds of Americans are very concerned about plastic pollution and policy makers all over the country are scrambling to respond by banning plastic and letting other single-use items take their place. But shifting to paper and other throw away products causes different and regrettable harm. Council Member Van Bramer’s proposed policy is exactly the kind of solution needed since reusables are better for the planet and save businesses money,” said Miriam Gordon, Program Director of Upstream.
“The New York City Council has made great strides in recent years by addressing plastic bags and foam,” said Jennie Romer, Legal Associate at the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Initiative and Coordinator of the ReusableNYC coalition. “Council Member Van Bramer’s bill is the next step bold forward in addressing plastic pollution at the local level.”
“Single-use plastic utensils are flawed by design. They are made to be used only once from a material that lasts forever. As plastic production increases, so will the amount of plastic pollution entering our oceans. Global production of plastic is now projected to increase at least fourfold between 2014 and 2050, which could be devastating to our ocean food web. Now is the time to curb plastic production, and reducing the amount of wasteful and unnecessary single-use plastic utensils would be a strong step forward,” said Brian Langloss, New York Campaign Organizer for Oceana.
Under this legislation, the default option for all takeout and delivery food orders would be that non-reusable eating utensils are not provided. Food service establishments would not be allowed to provide non-reusable eating utensils or condiment packets, unless such utensils are actively requested by the customer. This would also apply to all meal delivery service providers, which would be required to provide customers with an option on all their ordering platforms to specifically request non-reusable utensils be included in their order.
As for dining in, no food service establishment in the city with the capacity for dishwashing, as determined by the Department of Consumer Affairs, would be allowed to provide non-reusable eating utensils, excluding napkins, for their customers.
The Department of Consumer Affairs would be required to conduct outreach and create educational materials and signs for businesses and customers to inform them of the affirmative obligation to request non-reusable eating utensils. The department would also be tasked with issuing violations.