New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer introduced legislation that would require foodservice establishments to only provide non-reusable eating utensils upon request for all dine-in, takeout or delivery services. Customers would need to affirmatively opt-in to receiving non-reusable eating utensils with their food orders. This would apply to plates, bowls, forks, spoons and napkins but specifically excludes straws and stirrers.
Non-reusable eating utensils, predominantly made of plastic, have proven detrimental to the environment. Plastic utensils are not reusable or recyclable, so they are thrown away after a single use and end up in landfills. However, because they are easily disposable, plastic utensils often end up littered on the ground or in bodies of water. It is estimated that 40 billion plastic utensils are used in the United States alone each year.
“We must reckon with the harmful effects that everyday plastic utensils have on our environment and do everything we can to prevent irreparable harm to our oceans and our planet,” said Van Bramer in a statement. “The status quo of including plastic utensils in all food orders by default is unnecessary and unsustainable. We must put an end to this wasteful habit and have restaurants only provide plastic utensils to customers who request them. Adding a simple opt-in feature will go a long way to prevent the pollution of our ecosystems, protect wildlife and combat climate change.”
"Plastic pollution is a growing problem with roughly 9 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean every year and massive amounts of plastic littering neighborhoods throughout New York City. This common-sense bill will help reduce plastic pollution and save businesses money, and I urge the members of the New York City Council to promptly pass it into law," said Judith Enck, former EPA Region 2 regional administrator and founder of Beyond Plastics, in a statement.
Under this legislation, the default option for all takeout and delivery food orders would be that non-reusable eating utensils are not provided. Foodservice establishments would not be allowed to provide non-reusable eating utensils or condiment packets, unless such utensils are actively requested by the customer. This would also apply to all meal delivery service providers, which would be required to provide customers with an option on all their ordering platforms to specifically request non-reusable utensils be included in their order.
As for dining in, no foodservice establishment in the city with the capacity for dishwashing, as determined by the Department of Consumer Affairs, would be allowed to provide non-reusable eating utensils, excluding napkins, for their customers.
The Department of Consumer Affairs would be required to conduct outreach and create educational materials and signs for businesses and customers to inform them of the affirmative obligation to request non-reusable eating utensils. The department would also be tasked with issuing violations.
“Single-use plastics are a scourge on our environment. They contribute to a disposable society, are rarely recycled and pollute our land and waterways. Requiring that customers opt-in to receiving single-use items from restaurants will drastically reduce unnecessary plastic waste, which benefits the environment, gives New Yorkers the opportunity to make a positive impact on the climate and can potentially save the restaurant money. We thank Council Member Van Bramer for introducing this legislation to help combat our waste crisis and look forward to working together on this policy,” said Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, in a statement.