New York the Latest City to Take Aim At Plastic Straws

Momentum to ban these convenient suckers keeps growing.



Now New York City is considering a plastic straw ban.

On Wednesday, three Democrats on city council—Rafael Espinal of Brooklyn, Helen Rosenthal of Manhattan, and Barry Grodenchik of Queens—introduced a bill that would prohibit restaurants, bars, and other food service businesses from giving customers single-use plastic straws.

Businesses would be fined $100 for the first violation, $200 for second, and $400 for any violations thereafter. A medical exception would allow restaurateurs to hand out straws to anyone with a disability—including, oddly, people whose disabilities do not have any effect on how they drink their beverages. Everyone else would have to suck it up.

Espinal, along with John Calvelli of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Adrian Grenier of HBO's Entourage, try to justify the proposal in a New York Daily News op-ed, arguing that plastic straws are both an environmental menace and easily replaceable.

"While plastic straws are among the most common litter found on beaches, they are also among the hardest plastic to recycle and the easiest to replace," wrote the trio. "Alternatives to plastic straws made of paper, bamboo, metal or glass are readily available. Consumers can even skip the straw altogether."

In my own Daily News op-ed, I push back against both arguments. Straws, I note, are hardly the biggest problem when it comes to beach litter:

Straws make up a pretty small portion of plastic waste overall. Results from California's yearly coastal clean-up find that straws are about 4% of all beach debris collected. In Vancouver it's 3%. In the UK, straws are just 2% of all beach refuse.

And while plastic getting into the oceans is a big problem, it's not a particularly American problem:

The U.S. as it turns out does a pretty good job of disposing of the waste we produce, making us responsible for less than 1% of plastic going into the oceans. That's compared to countries like China, which contributes almost 28% of yearly plastic marine debris, or Indonesia, responsible for another 10%.

As one chemical engineering professor put it to National Geographic, "Let's say you recycle 100 percent in all of North America and Europe. You still would not make a dent on the plastics released into the oceans. If you want to do something about this, you have to go there, to these countries, and deal with the mismanaged waste."

Straw bans in a couple coastal cities will be of even less help to the environment. But they would do a good job of inconveniencing customers and ruining businesses for whom plastic straws are a crucial component of the drinks they service. As I wrote in the Daily News:

There are those drinks that would be rendered hopelessly impractical in a straw-free world, from the standard milkshake to your favorite whipped-cream topped beverage from Starbucks. Bubble tea might disappear entirely without the straws needed to slurp up the tapioca balls at the bottom of the cup that give the beverage its name.

Indeed, bubble tea merchants were some of the strongest opponents of Vancouver's straw ban, with one tea house manager telling the city council, "our industry depends on straws. This ban will be detrimental to many businesses in our city.

"Who's going to pay more money for a metal straw?" one New York bubble tea shop manager tells Reason, adding: "It's impossible to suck up a bubble through paper."

Reusable straws really aren't practical for drinks that more often than not are consumed on the go. But for straw opponents, these bans are starting to take on a self-justifying momentum. In the words of Espinal and co.: "California is also looking to implement a statewide ban. For the sake of our environment and ecological future, New York City must be among these progressive champions." Gotta keep up with the progressive Joneses.

NEXT: Transgender Bathroom Case Bounced by Supreme Court Starts Long Trek Back into the Spotlight

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  1. A medical exception would allow restaurateurs to hand out straws to people with a disability

    So at least three members of New York’s city council would still be given straws.

    1. And since there is no “identifying card or paperwork” for disability, everyone can claim disability and receive a straw. Suck on that, bitches.

    2. Do mental disabilities count?

      1. That’s my assumption.

      2. If so, then my guess is that a lot more than three members of NY’s city council would qualify.

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  2. HTH do you even attempt to clean a metal, reusable straw?

    Although … it might be fun to see the Environmental Progressives go to war againt the Health and Safety Nazis. When the dust clears, the only possible truce will be to declare Starbucks as neutral and exempt “high calorie, coffee flavored drinks” from any ban.

    1. We use metal straws at home. They work great. Just flush them with warm water after use and toss them in the dishwasher. Shake the water out afterwards and put them in a drawer.

      The real problem is that they’re expensive and bending them too much results in catastrophic failure.

      1. Don’t flush it immediately after use and that dried crap is a bitch to clean.

    2. They’ll probably mandate that some non-toxic detergent be put into all beverages that are commonly consumed through straws. This way everyone is safe from grime growing inside those hard-to-clean reusable straws. So what if it makes all the drinks taste like soap? It’s for your own good, peasant.

      1. At least the SUGARY beverages!

        1. They apply the same sin tax to sugary soft drinks as they do to diet. Can’t discriminate. It wouldn’t be fair.

          1. *** scratches head ***

            Why don’t they apply a sin tax to plastic straws?

            1. They have.

              Businesses would be fined $100 for the first violation, $200 for second, and $400 for any violations thereafter.

              A fine is just another tax.

              1. No, a surcharge on your tab if you ordered something and a plastic straw were included in the delivery of the sinful beverage to your table…

                That moves the cost of recycling and horrible damage to Mother Gaia Earth to the end-user, which is possibly the ‘most fair’ solution of all.

                But I thought of a free-market response already…. demand paper straws instead of plastic!
                And as soon as that ‘ecologically superior solution’ becomes bent or soggy, demand another one or two from the waiter… By the time the dinner is over, you probably could have a pile of used paper straws at your table which would have cost the restaurant many times the cost of one or two straws!

                Hm? I

    3. The environmental Nazis always win over health and cleanliness.

      Why do you think toilets in the US are so terrible and our soaps couldn’t cut through a stain for their lives?

    4. I have these awesome SlurPEE anodized metal straws which the kids love in the summer time. Requires a strip mine in Arizona to make though.

      1. Well, we appreciate getting the strip mines, so it’s win-win.

      2. Yeah, but that’s in flyover, GOP territory utterly lacking in cuddly animals. Who really cares?

      3. What’s the Net Energy Balance for manufacturing, cleaning and recycling of paper versus plastic versus metal straws (please include an estimate for energy wasted doing the research and continuing the discussion/argument.)

    5. Through the introduction of the use of disposable plastic pipe cleaners.

  3. A medical exception would allow restaurateurs to hand out straws to anyone with a disability?including, oddly, people whose disabilities do not have any effect on how they drink their beverages.

    Exceptions had jolly well better be granted to transgender people, too!

  4. The U.S. as it turns out does a pretty good job of disposing of the waste we produce…

    Put away the MAGA hat, Britschgi. If that is your real name.

  5. A rash of New York City restaurant-goers getting sick from putting their mouths on the edges of glasses that servers have had their filthy hands on in 3, 2, 1, ….

    1. Meh. The ice and drink dispensers are loaded with bacteria.

      1. I remember us all being inordinately proud at the 7/11 I used to manage. The health inspector came, and commented that we were the only one who’s milkshake machine didn’t have weird bacterial growths in it.

        We took pride in our work, damn it.

  6. More virtue signalling at the expense of the working class. We’re so wealthy we can afford to waste resources on crap like this. What a wonderful time to be alive.

    1. Until a society or culture is “wealthy enough,” there’s no resources or ‘wealth’ available to prioritize or value such efforts.

      When you’re starving, recycling isn’t NEAR your priority list, let alone ON it…

  7. The Left: Straws are horrible litter problems…but hypodermic needles are not.

  8. Straws make up a pretty small portion of plastic waste overall.

    Probably a smaller portion than, say, condoms.

    1. Fine, let’s ban condoms.


  9. … introduced a bill that would prohibit restaurants, bars, and other food service businesses from giving customers single-use plastic straws.

    Amusingly, the bill is known as the “BYOS-UPS Act”.

  10. Big Straw better watch their backs – these AG’s have a nasty habit of filing class-action lawsuits against anybody they think they can extort money from they can hold responsible for damages.

    1. This is why we need to ban plastic straws. If we don’t then they’ll keep on washing up on the shores of Asian countries.

    2. That’s called “recycling”.

      1. You mean Yellow Peril.

  11. Does the law ban plastic spoons? Specifically, plastic spoons with long hollow tube-like handles?

    1. That’s what I was thinking would become the standard, more costly, workaround.

      1. Or cups with a straw embedded.

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    1. Still, Rotondo insisted the judge was wrong.

      So many possibilities.

    2. Jesus, he even looks exactly how I pictured him.

      1. I saw the picture this morning and my first thought was, “That motherfucker has a sword collection.”

        Then i read the article, and yep.

        1. There’s a measurable possibility it could be Mike Riggs.

          1. Riggs lives in a cave in the woods and the only things he collects are the skulls of his enemies. Who are mostly bears.

        2. When you were partying, he studied the blade.

  13. So, I guess the taxpayers of the city still haven’t learned. Enforcement of this law, like any, will cost money. Guess where that’s coming from?

  14. When straws are outlawed only outlaws will have straws!

  15. Straw bans suck. Suck…get it?

  16. These are the same cities that encourage junkies to drop their used hypos on the street. Makes sense.

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  18. It’s all about the power to control other people….

  19. I wonder if selling the straws separately for one cent would be allowed.

  20. You hear it sometimes whenever these idiots bring up the straw menace… But why exactly are plastic straws hard to recycle? I don’t understand it… It’s just plastic to be melted down like anything else. Do they mean to say people usually don’t BOTHER to recycle, because I could at least see that?

    Either way, screw this shit. They can have my plastic straw when they pry it from my cold dead hands!

    1. We Need More Effective Straw Control Laws!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      1. Definitely! It’s the only way to save the children! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!

    2. My wife actually buys into this bs and has bought stainless steel straws for our kids to use.

      I told her most of the plastic in the oceans comes from China, so what straws they use isn’t going to make any difference- the Chinese aren’t going to give a shit about straws anytime soon

      1. I’ve used them before, they’re not that bad. I still don’t like them as much because of the slight give in the plastic ones when you suck. It’s just a different feel somehow.

        The biggest sketchy thing with the SS straws is that you can literally kill yourself if you trip with one in your mouth! You should ask your wife why she’s trying to kill your children! I believe they do make “permanent” plastic straws as well. Those might give you the better sucking response, not kill your children, while still not needing to be thrown out every time. *Sigh* the troubles we men go through to make women happy!

        Personally I just don’t use straws at home. I prefer them for drinking certain types of liquids, but just drink straight out of the can/bottle at home, or put it in a cup and deal with it.

  21. This epitomizes everything that sucks about progressivism. They don’t have the balls, or don’t know how to deal with the issues they claim to care about like inequality, so instead they micromanage people over retarded things like straws, vaping, and transgender bathrooms

  22. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the bulk of straws found on beaches were left there by visitors to the beach itself. Banning straws at stores and restaurants far inland will have approximately zero impact on straws found at beaches.

  23. There’s an unstated assumption here – or more accurately, an assumption they dare not state: Either the typical New Yorker will pass by one or more trashcans in order to throw her trash directly into the river, or they put it in a trashcan or recycling bin, but somehow trash collected by the city often winds up floating out to sea.

    I don’t know about New York. I do know about Michigan. Most of us properly dispose of trash, and nearly all the trash that’s collected stays in the landfills. You can find disgusting things on Lake Michigan’s beaches, but however much trash is dumped or washes up there, plastic straws are an insignificant part of it. (When I was a kid in the 1960’s, I once estimated that the “sand” on Traverse City’s crowded Clinch Park beach was 30-50% cigarette butts in various stages of breaking down and decomposing. I hope that’s no longer true…)

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