MAY 30, 2018 5:13 AM PDT

Can NYC ban plastic straws?

If you’re not already carrying around a metal straw in your purse, now is the time to invest. NYC recently announced plans to ban plastic straws in the city, and if it passes, restaurants using plastic straws could be fined up to $400. That’s a lot of change to dish our for your iced-tea-sipper.

With 8.5 million residents, this ban could be a big move in efforts to reduce the amount of plastic - particularly one-use plastics like straws - that we are producing and most often times tossing (into the ocean). “We depend on plastic, and that is a trend we have to reverse immediately,” said city council member Rafael Espinal, who spoke about his proposed ban at a press conference in Manhattan. But this isn’t New York City’s first time ‘round the rodeo for anti-plastic measures. Earlier this year the city council attempted to add a 5-cent fee to plastic and paper bag use, but the bill was not passed.

Did you know that the US alone uses enough plastic straws to wrap around the Earth's circumference 2.5 times a day?!! Photo: The Hill

One short-term strategy that environmentally-minded folks are urging whilst the slow wheels of politics turn is that restaurants and food service companies only provide straws “upon request” by customers. In other words, your lemonade isn’t going to automatically come with a straw - you’ll have to ask. McDonald’s franchises in the UK will be instituting this method, as well as trying out paper straws for a time.

Though change always has some hesitant takers, more than 130 restaurants in NYC have already signed on to the “Give a Sip” campaign, which encourages switching to straws made from plastic alternatives such as biodegradable paper, bamboo, and metal. Seattle and Malibu, CA also are fighting against straws and statewide bans are currently being considered in California and Hawaii.

The “Give a Sip” campaign is led by the Wildlife Conservation Society. WCS vice-president of public affairs, John Calvelli, put it plainly in terms of the impacts on marine animals: “A single straw may seem like nothing; it’s not.” According to the Guardian, there are an estimated 7.5m plastic straws on America’s beaches. That number is likely on the lower side - after all, how easy is it to find every single discarded straw in the nation?

“Few people realize that straws are among the top 10 items found during beach clean-ups and can do so much harm to seabirds, turtles and other marine creatures,” expressed another campaign group, For A Strawless Ocean. “As an item of convenience for the vast majority of us, we believe refusing the single-use plastic straw is the easiest and simplest way for everyone to take action today to address plastic pollution.”

The video that took the world, showing the horror that a single straw can do.

Sources: The Guardian, Quartzy, CityLab

 

 

 

 

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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