New bill would ban plastic straws in all NYC bars and restaurants

Written by
Clayton Guse

The straw that stirs New York City’s drink will soon be made of paper, if a group of City Council members has anything to say about it. On Wednesday, Councilman Rafael Espinal announced that he is introducing a new bill to the chamber that would ban all food and drink establishments in the city from offering customers any straw or stirrer made of plastic or any other nonbiodegradable material.

The bill, which is also sponsored by Council members Helen Rosenthal and Barry Grodenchik, aims to follow in the footsteps of cities like Miami Beach and Seattle, which have both instituted plastic straw bans. It's gained the support of the Wildlife Conservation Society, an organization with a “Give a Sip” campaign that aims to drum up support for the bill.

If passed in its current form, the ban would take two years to go into effect. After that, any establishment serving a drink with a plastic straw or stirrer would be subject to a $100 fine by the city. The bill does include exceptions for people who require straws due to a disability or medical condition. 

“Each day millions of plastic straws are used and discarded,” Espinal said during a press conference announcing the bill. “With so many options available, from paper to metal straws, we can make plastic a thing of the past.”

The switch to paper straws will surely take some getting used to, but Espinal is confident that businesses will be on board. A spokesperson from his office said that the NYC Hospitality Alliance completed a study on the matter and found that paper straws would not be cost prohibitive for food and drink establishments. One goal of the bill is to encourage businesses to make patrons request straws, “a practice that reduced the usage of straws by 75 percent in one Brooklyn venue,” the spokesperson said.

The bill, which has been referred to by the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing, is just the latest in a number of headline-grabbing initiatives that have been spearheaded by Espinal. Last year, he was behind a push to establish a new Office of Nightlife and repeal the city's arcane cabaret law. And in March, he introduced a new bill to the council that would make it illegal for New York City bosses to contact their employees after work hours. 

If the straw ban does get passed, it'd not only mark the latest in a series of legislative successes for Espinal but also a win for environmentalists across the city. 

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