New York City on Verge of Curbing Plastic Pollution From Utensils
Oceana and Wide Coalition of Supporters Urge NYC to Vote to ’Skip The Stuff’
Press Release Date: December 8, 2021
Location: Washington, DC
NEW YORK — Yesterday, New York City’s Committee on Consumer Affairs held a hearing on INT 1775-2019, the proposed “Skip the Stuff” bill, that, if passed, would require that restaurants, food delivery apps, and online delivery platforms provide certain single-use items — including plastic utensils and condiment packets — only if specifically requested by the customer.
Single-use plastic utensils are a significant source of plastic waste in New York City, and the cost of managing that waste falls on New Yorkers. In fact, the cost of managing disposable foodware in New York City in 2016 was approximately $42 million — all paid for by New York City residents and businesses.
“We simply cannot continue to use unnecessary single-use plastic items, like utensils, at our current rate if we have any hope of tackling the plastic pollution crisis,” said Brian Langloss, New York field representative for Oceana. “An estimated 33 billion pounds of plastic enter the marine environment every year — roughly the equivalent of dumping two garbage trucks full of plastic into the ocean every minute. Council Member James Van Bramer’s bill is a key example of action we can take at the local level to reduce plastic pollution and ensure consumers have plastic-free choices.”
Diana Blackwell, affordable housing advocate and resident association president of the Fred Samuel Apartments (NYCHA), testified at the Dec. 7 hearing and said, “As with most New Yorkers, residents of public and affordable housing suffer when our neighborhoods get caught in the crossfire of big plastic corporations trying to pass off their cost of doing business and our city trying to pay for it. The result is that our trees, our doorsteps, our communities, and our way of life get trashed with plastic products that are only used once yet are made from a material that lasts for generations. This must stop.” She described the “Skip the Stuff” provision that customers must simply ask for single-use plastic utensils as “common sense.”
“The status quo of including plastic utensils in all food orders by default is not only unnecessary and unsustainable; it is incredibly costly for the city’s restaurants and small businesses,” said council member and bill sponsor Jimmy Van Bramer. “The ‘Skip the Stuff’ ordinance was drafted specifically to reduce the harmful effects everyday plastics have on our environment while also addressing the costs incurred by restaurants and city sanitation. Ultimately, this will save businesses money and we want them to know that.”
NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie previously stated, “While we’re always skeptical of over-regulating small businesses, we believe this policy strikes the right balance because it will save restaurants money by reducing the number of single-use plastic utensils and condiment packages they often provide customers that go unused, while also reducing the plastic waste that ends up on in our waste system, in our waterways, on our streets, and that harms our environment. The bill rightfully provides restaurants a warning for violations and not just fines, it requires the city to conduct outreach and education about the law to restaurants, and offers other protections for restaurants so they can comply. We thank Council Member Van Bramer and the City Council for their cooperative approach in crafting this legislation.”
Brooklynite and activist Raine Manley Robertson has been advocating tirelessly for the “Skip the Stuff” bill, as she believes it’s a policy that can work and easily fit into current consumer behaviors. She has frequently noted that “UberEats, Grubhub, Postmates, and DoorDash have all announced features allowing users to opt in to utensils. Right here in New York, the innovative ordering platform DeliverZero has helped us experience a world where your takeout comes in reusable containers with no utensils at all. Delivery services are helping to lead the way; but to make this actually work, it’ll be crucial to equip our essential food service workers with the knowledge and tools to be able to roll this out effectively.” On ways the “Skip the Stuff” ordinance can support food businesses, she pointed out that “the city will start educating restaurants to help them build these new habits.”
Eric Goldstein, senior attorney and New York City environment director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, described the wide-ranging support for the “Skip the Stuff” bill at the Dec. 7 hearing. “Twenty-two members of the public voiced their support for the legislation, as did Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Sanitation Gregory Anderson. Not a single witness testified against the bill,” he said.
During the hearing, Alexis Goldsmith, community organizer for Beyond Plastics, testified, “It cannot be overstated how quickly the problem of plastic pollution is growing, as plastic production facilities in the U.S. are expanding and could quadruple capacity by just 2050. Emissions from plastic production will exceed U.S. coal emissions by just 2030. The fenceline communities where these facilities would be built have made it clear through organizing they do not want these facilities, I would argue this expansion is being driven by the extraction of fossil fuels, rather than consumer demand.”
“Intro 1775-B provides tangible steps to reduce waste, emissions, and unnecessary costs for local businesses,” said Carlos Castell Croke, associate for New York City Programs for the New York League of Conservation Voters. “Passing ‘Skip the Stuff’ legislation will reduce the approximate 36 million pounds of single-use plastic food ware collected from New York City’s residential waste stream; save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for businesses and the city’s budget; and recognize significant environmental protections, including reduced fossil fuel usage and microplastics in our waterways.”
Surfrider Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager Matt Gove said, “The Skip the Stuff bill makes sense for New York. It will save restaurants money, save our environment from plastic litter, and save New Yorkers from all the extra junk we never wanted coming with our delivery and takeout food.”
There isn’t a place on Earth untouched by plastic. Plastic has now been found everywhere, including in the most unexpected places: Arctic sea ice, the Mariana Trench, air in the remotest of mountains, rain in our national parks, and our food, including honey, salt, water and beer. Scientists are still studying what all this means for human health. With plastic production growing at a rapid rate, increasing amounts of plastic can be expected to flood our blue planet with devastating consequences.
For more information about Oceana’s campaign to end the plastics problem, please visit usa.oceana.org/plastics.
Oceana is the largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation. Oceana is rebuilding abundant and biodiverse oceans by winning science-based policies in countries that control one-third of the world’s wild fish catch. With more than 225 victories that stop overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution, and the killing of threatened species like turtles and sharks, Oceana’s campaigns are delivering results. A restored ocean means that 1 billion people can enjoy a healthy seafood meal, every day, forever. Together, we can save the oceans and help feed the world. Visit www.USA.Oceana.org to learn more.