NYC fast-casual restaurants may have to serve food in reusable containers

A new bill proposes we say goodbye to single-use plastic utensils.

Anna Rahmanan
Written by
Anna Rahmanan
Senior National News Editor
Reusable food containers
Photograph: Shutterstock

NYC might finally chuck plastic utensils at some of its restaurants.

A group of NYC legislators just introduced a bill (Intro No. 1003) that would require corporate-owned fast-casual food establishments in NYC to offer consumers “the option to request reusable food packaging and participate in a system for the return of the food packaging,” according to an official press release. 

The “Choose to Reuse” bill would basically mandate the Shake Shacks and Chipotles of New York to only offer one-time-use utensils and containers upon request, opting instead to serve their fare in reusable containers that would help cut down pollution all around.

RECOMMENDED: How to compost, recycle and get rid of anything in NYC

The officials behind the new bill say that 561 billion disposable food service items are used every year, resulting in 4.9 million tons of waste in the U.S.

“Single-use plastics are littering streets, clogging water supply, entering human bloodstreams, piling up in landfills and crucially, contributing to climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions,” reads the press release. “In recent years, packaging marketed as biodegradable or compostable has been positioned as a solution, but in reality, those single-use solutions contribute to climate-warming emissions and waste. And while NYC is taking steps to increase access to citywide residential composting, organics processing centers in cities across the country will no longer even accept packaging marked as ‘compostable’ because it contaminates the compost and cannot truly be degraded into organic material.”

Even more specifically, reusable products emit less greenhouse gas than their disposable counterparts, a fact that might actually help the city reach its climate emissions targets a bit more easily and swiftly. 

“This bill is a significant step toward a more sustainable and responsible food service industry,” said Manhattan borough president Mark Levine in a statement. “A less polluted, more resilient New York depends on innovating in every industry so that we’re relying on fewer single-use products. If eating with reusable materials is the norm in our homes and sit-down restaurants, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be in corporate-owned fast-casual restaurants.”

Given New York's overall disposition towards all things sustainability, this new effort certainly fits the character of the city. Here's to hoping it will actually turn into reality.

In the meantime, we suggest you perhaps learn how to compost, recycle and basically get rid of anything in NYC. We all have to do our part, after all, right?

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