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Opinion

Why the effort to ban plastic straws is growing

NYC is now poised to help lead the way.

Paper straws sit on the bar at Fog

Paper straws sit on the bar at Fog Harbor Fish House on June 21, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his support for efforts to ensure NYC becomes a leader in reducing single-use plastics that pollute our oceans and harm wildlife worldwide. And last year, Councilman Rafael Espinal proposed legislation that would eliminate the use of most single-use plastic straws in NYC.

The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the efforts. We are optimistic that the legislation will become law and encouraged by the many businesses that have already begun providing alternatives to plastic straws.

The push to ban single-use plastic in NYC dovetails with Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium Give a Sip campaign, which already has 175 partners. They include Montefiore Medical Center, Pace University and the Yemeni American Merchants Association, which is educating customers in 4,000 bodegas across the five boroughs about the need to ban plastic straws. More than 150,000 individuals also have pledged to stop using plastic straws.

Under the City Council bill, food service establishments would not be able to offer single-use beverage straws or stirrers made of plastic or other non-biodegradable material. The bill would encourage such businesses to instead offer biodegradable and reusable straws. It includes exemptions that allow the establishments to offer appropriate straws for people with disabilities or medical conditions, and we are reaching out to organizations who represent disabled people to ensure the right accommodations.

NYC’s Department of Education, the second-largest public food-service provider in the nation, has made the transition away from plastic straws to certified compostable straws (mindful of the needs of students with disabilities).

Since this law would take effect 180 days after passage, it allows time to educate consumers and for food services to make changes to meet the requirements. A single straw might seem like nothing. It’s not, and NYC can help lead the way by saying no to plastic straws.

 John Calvelli is executive vice president for public affairs at the Wildlife Conservation Society and director of the Give a Sip campaign.

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