Committing to a ‘greener’ NYC with the reduction of single-use plastics

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While we as individuals can do our best to be more “green” in our everyday lives, many businesses are still handing out wasteful plastics in the form of shopping bags and one-time-use utensils at the same rate as they were before there was a larger public concern. The reason is that it is simply easier to keep the machine moving forward by continuing to provide these products without any serious repercussions. That is, until now.

It was announced earlier this month that Mayor Bill de Blasio would be signing an executive order banning the purchase of all unnecessary single-use plastics; in turn, businesses will be forced to purchase more eco-friendly compostable alternatives.

Right now, New York City purchases 1.1 million pounds of single-use plastic foodware — i.e., plastic utensils, containers, etc. —  every year. The ban, which will go into effect by the end of the year, will cut down on 95 percent of all single-use plastics, reducing the city’s carbon emissions by an estimated 500 tons per year. However, under the American Disabilities Act, certain single-use plastics, such as straws, will still be available upon request for those who need them. As an alternative to plastic straws, which can wind up polluting our environment, many restaurants in the city are opting for using biodegradable paper straws or multiple-use metal straws.

“Big Oil has been pushing single-use plastics for too long — and it stops here,” said Mayor de Blasio in a release. “They litter our beaches and parks, jam our recycling machines and contribute to climate change. Our actions today will help us build a fairer city for all New Yorkers.”

 

With the signing of this executive order, no new contracts will be signed for single-use plastic foodware other than to renew orders to keep a consistent supply for customers who ask for these plastic items upon checkout. Businesses and agencies that are affected by this plan are to start reducing their use immediately and must also prepare a reduction plan within 120 days. A full reduction plan must be implemented by the end of the year.  

“Let’s call single-use plastic what it is: pollution,” said Mark Chambers, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, in a release. “We need to leave these harmful plastics behind, and reducing the city’s use of plastic foodware is a huge step in that direction.”

The executive order has already received resounding support, including from Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

“Environmental protection is essential at every level — from global agreements, to national green emissions standards and green energy plans, to an individual’s actions and choices,” said Williams in a release. “Following the statewide plastic bag ban and the citywide foam ban, this effort is another important step in reducing waste and negative environmental impact in any way we can.”

In furthering this trend toward making a greener city, Bridget Anderson, deputy commissioner of the Department of Sanitation’s Bureau of Recycling and Sustainability, has proposed a bill that would require a five-cent fee on all single-use carry-out paper bags, to encourage New Yorkers to commit to using their own reusable grocery bags.   

 

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