The Biggest Victims of Progressives' Plastic Straw Laws Are the Workers They Normally Champion

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's anti-plastic executive order will be a pain for taxpayers and city workers alike.


Bill de Blasio is the latest politician to come out against single-use plastics. On Thursday, the New York mayor issued an executive order calling for city agencies to stop purchasing plastic foodware and replace it with supposedly greener alternatives.

"The villain here is big oil. The fossil fuel industry did this to us," said De Blasio at a press conference, standing at a podium adorned with a "Stop Plastic Waste, Stop Big Oil" sign. "Today, we say no to plastics. We say no to fossil fuels. We say yes to a better and fairer future."

That soaring rhetoric obscures a rather incrementalist policy. The mayor's executive order gives the agencies 120 days to prepare a plan outlining how they will stop spending city funds on "unnecessary single-use plastic foodware in favor of reusable, compostable, or recyclable alternatives," with the goal of ditching these plastic foodware purchases by the end of the year. But the order allows agencies to continue using plastic stuffs when there exists no practical non-plastic alternatives or when the agency has already signed a contract to purchase plastic foodware. Exceptions are also made for emergencies, and for when a person specifically requests a single-use plastic straw.

Getting rid of single-use plastics is part of the mayor's broader campaign to combat climate change. The executive order declares that burning fossil fuels "is toxic to New York City and the planet" and adds that "fossil fuels are an integral component to the production of single-use plastics."

As we know from plastic bag bans, however, the replacements for these items can often be much worse for the climate. According to a recent University of Sydney study, a paper bag would need to be reused three times before it is better for the climate than a single-use plastic bag. A cotton tote bag would have to be reused 131 times. There's a good chance that many of the paper replacements that New York City's government departments, city-run hospitals, and public schools will adopt will suffer from the same problems.

The biggest losers from de Blasio's policy—bigger even than the taxpayers who will have to pay for more expensive alternatives to plastic—are the 300,000 or so city workers who'll now have to make do with inferior paper straws or spend more time washing up their own cutlery or dishware in breakroom sinks.

Workers are, in general, an underappreciated victim of anti-plastic regulations. Just this week, the Los Angeles Times ran a story on life under L.A.'s straw-on-request law, which has seen some restaurants ditch straws entirely, producing lots of irritated—and irritable—diners. "Customers got upset," one server at a newly strawless restaurant told the Times. "It got to the point we purchased paper straws because we were getting so many complaints."

Rep. Devin Nunes (R–Calif.) famously tweeted angrily about having to ask for a straw while back in his district. I don't envy the person waiting his table.

At times, this has even resulted in violence against workers. Within days of St. Petersburg, Florida, implementing its straw-on-request policy, one particularly irate customer attacked a McDonald's employee after he had to walk up to the counter to ask for a straw.

De Blasio's own executive order, though not specifically about restuarants, does include a straw-on-request policy, mandating that departments subject to the order keep a cache of plastic straws on hand for anyone who specifically requests one—a provision I assume is aimed at school and hospital cafeterias and other cafés in government buildings.

The mayor also threw his support behind regulating the private provision of plastic foodware, saying at his press conference that "we need to get plastic foodware out of restaurants, out of stores. We need to get it out of our lives."

Removing plastic from our lives means adding extra grief to the lives of the food service workers who have to abide by the regulations. Spare a thought for them too, de Blasio.

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  1. The Biggest Victims of Progressives’ Plastic Straw Laws Are the Workers They Normally Pretend To Champion

    Fixed the headline for you.

    1. +100

    2. It is humorous, but scary to see the ignorance on display here. Most of you are ignorant of what you discuss. Being a for,er Senior Engineer in Technical Services for a huge power company with a Master of Science in Energy and the Environment, let me straighten you out.

      Renewables are now the cheapest not just the cleanest power now available to power companies. While the new nukes at Vogtle in Georgia are already over 15 cents/kWh and are not yet finished, the actual bids for power in Colorado were 2.1 cents/kWh for wind plus battery storage, and 3.6 cents/kWh for PV plus battery storage, . . 24-hour, continuous power.

      My own household and two electric cars are powered by my PV system on the roof of the house. With the cars, it paid back in three years in gasoline savings alone.

      1. Then why are politicians still advocating for subsidies and regulation to promote these industries? Clearly, only a fool would build a natural gas power plant if wind + battery storage is so much cheaper.

        1. You see, ignorant rube, if we artificially make fossil fuels more expensive via regulations and pretend to cut the costs of renewable energy by forcing taxpayer money to subsidize costs, then we can say with a straight face that renewable sources are cheaper! My Ultra-Doctorate in Economic and Environmental Social Justice and my 14-in penis say so.

      2. None of which addresses the core problems with ‘renewable’ energy;

        How much land do you propose we cover with wind farms and solar collectors, and what ecological damage will THAT do?

        Both solar cells and wind turbines depend on exotic materials that are toxic to mine, toxic to refine, and toxic to dispose of.

        You are talking about taking a vast amount of energy out of the environment, where it is doing SOMETHING. We may not know what. Indeed I have seen no indication that we DO know what. That doesn’t mean that taking the energy in question out of the system is something we will be able to live with.

        As matters stand, wind and solar power are not steady enough o supply a reliable grid. Airy persiflage about new technology is beside the point; it isn’t in place now. If it your intention to force your fellow citizens to adapt to an unreliable power grid, have the honesty to say so. Then duck, it isn’t going to be a popular idea.

      3. Do we have a new troll?

      4. I hold a PE myself. A scant five minutes looking at the raw data tells the lie to your statements. Namely how dependent renewables are on subsidies.

        Plus, no engineer would ignore the elephant in the room. Dispatchability, or pretend that battery storage exists on a grid scale, which anyone even vaguely familiar with the situation knows it does not.

        As far as the gas savings of a electric car, powered by a PV system on a roof? Do you believe us idiots? If your power is free, and you only paid a $10k premium over a cheap economy car (assuming 40 m/g), that would require of 160k miles to break even. Once you include the costs to build and maintain a solar system of that size, it just won’t break even.

        You, good sir or madam, are a liar and a bad one. No engineer would make such basic errors.

      5. GKAM, everything you just said is utter bullshit. And not even clever bullshit. It isn’t even worth refuting point by point.

        You might be able to get away with idiotic lies like that at WaPo, or HuffPo, or Slate, it it just doesn’t fly here.

        Silly bitch.

    3. oops, I accidentally hit the flag on your comment. I don’t see any way to undo it either. I don’t like this commenting system at all. Disqus is much better!

      1. No editing of the comments either. Will I at least get an email from this response?

      2. I went ahead and flagged you for falsely flagging GKAM. That should assuage your guilt at least. I’m comfortable with mine.

    4. Beat me to it.

    5. “The Biggest Victims of Progressives Laws Are the People They Normally Pretend To Champion”

      It generalizes.

    6. Better, but where’s the edit button?

      1. Nowhere.

  2. “The workers they normally champion”

    Are you really that naive?

    1. There are only so many variations on “If only Stalin knew!” before people realize it’s bullshit.

  3. “”We say no to fossil fuels.”‘, he said while driving away in his SUV, followed by a police escort in other SUVs.

    1. And the logic of ‘climate change, fossil fuels, therefore ban plastic’ is about as sensible as ‘biggest CO2 emitter globally = wood-burning, therefore ban lumber.’

      1. I have been told for years by self-rightious ninnies that lastic takes eons to break down in the environment…to which I reply, “Since almost all plastic is made from the sludge left over from gasoline refining, doesn’t plastic represent an improvement?”

        1. Plastic is normally made from ethylene gas, which is mostly made from cracking natural gas. What are you talking about?

          1. Ethylene is made from ethane, naphtha, or diesel-like raw material.

            If such materials were not cracked to make ethylene, they would be combusted and result in satanic CO2 emissions.

            Instead, ethylene is polymerized to make polyethylene, which locks up the carbon for all eternity. Since plastics are far more energy-efficient than other materials in many applications, they are in fact beneficial to the environment.

            I’d much prefer to live downwind of an ethylene/polyethylene complex than a paper mill.

            1. No like or dislike? For shame.

    2. Nope. My two cars are electric, and charged by the PV panels on the roof of my house.

      1. Nope. My two cars are electric, and charged by the PV panels on the roof of my house.

        So you only drive at night?

      2. That must be a very expensive and cumbersome solar system. I used to have a business that sold them, and I know what is involved. And solar systems do not pay themselves off in a few years. Not without a lot of government largesse injected into the equation.

        1. “And solar systems do not pay themselves off in a few years”

          Now, galaxies, on the other hand…

  4. Progressivism is the next stage toward communism.

    1. Comrade Stalin was the leader of progressive mankind.

      Progressivism is communism. Most progressivists won’t accept this fact only because they communism has gotten some bad press lately.

      1. My link failed with the new comment system. The link was to a 1949 Soviet News article that celebrated Stalin’s 70th birthday titled “Comrade Stalin – Leader of Progressive Mankind”.

  5. What we really need to “get out of our lives” is De Blasio and the mindless herd like him.

  6. Almost all environmental policies disproportionately negatively affect the poor.

    1. Almost all environmental policies disproportionately negatively affect the poor.

      The interesting thing being that 30 years ago this was why socialists as a general rule disliked environmentalists, while environmentalists tended to chafe at socialism’s fetishizing of heavy industry in the name of supporting the proles. That was before the socialists realized the anti-capitalist potential of environmentalism.

  7. . . . unnecessary . . .

    There’s your weasel word baby. Its perfect too. Those agencies with heads that are still politically popular can get away with declaring the stuff ‘necessary’ while those that aren’t politically popular will be hammered constantly with demands to reduce use and then, even if they cut use to zero, with demands to explain why they are inconveniencing their staff ‘unnecessarily’ until someone pays up or resigns and a different crony can be put in place.

  8. “Today, we say no to plastics. We say no to fossil fuels. We say yes to a better and fairer future.”

    Did they edit out the following part where he walked away to return to his office? Escorted by a foot patrolman without a gun?

    What? He rides in a vehicle with internal combustion propulsion? He has armed escorts that ride in vehicles with internal combustion propulsion?

    Say it ain’t so. It almost makes him look like a hypocritical bigot.

    1. “” It almost makes him look like a hypocritical bigot””

      Almost? But he’s use to it.

    2. Apparently he knows absolutely nothing about history. Life before plastic and fossil fuel was short and brutal.

      1. Just ask any retired MD.

  9. “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s anti-plastic executive order will be a pain for taxpayers and city workers alike.”

    But that doesn’t matter.
    What matters is de Blasio has more control and power over the people of NYC.

  10. The cops will have to switch back to wooden nightsticks.

    1. No, that’s not true. The plastic night-sticks aren’t single use only. Just count the notches in them.

  11. Simple solution, hemp plastic.

  12. Please stop whining and outgrow it.

  13. Being a former engineer for a large power company and having earned a Master of Science in Energy and the Environment, I had PV panels installed three years ago, with my estimated payback of 15-17 years, . . the right thing for an eco-freak to do.

    Before they could be installed, we acquired a VW e-Golf electric car. The savings in gasoline alone took the solar system payback down to 3 1/2 years. So, we added another electric car, and that took the payback down to less than three years, which means we now get free power for household and transportation.

    But that is not all: We do not need to go to gas stations, we fuel up at home at night with cheap baseload power. During the daytime, the PV system turns our meter backwards powering the neighborhood with clean local power, which we trade for the stuff used the night before. If we paid for transportation fuel, the VW would cost us 3 cents/mile to drive, and the Tesla Model S P 85 would cost 4 cents/mile at California power prices.

    No oil changes are a real treat along with no leaks. And since it has an electric motor, it needs NO ENGINE MAINTENANCE at all. We do not go “gas up”, or get tune-ups or emissions checks, have no transmission about which to worry, no complicated machined parts needing care.

    I love it.

    1. we fuel up at home at night with cheap baseload coal-derived power

    2. You live in the high sunshine belt GKAM. I live in the lowest sunshine belt. Hence your investment in panels and battery system makes sense for you. Would make no sense here.

      Enjoy your VW golf. I like more so I have a Charger. Don’t drive a commute any more since I can work remotely. Still it gets 370 hp, 395 lb-ft and fun when I drive it. It is also AWD since we have actual winter here. That makes a difference to me.

      So nice to hear it is working out for you.

      Plastic bag ban is ridiculous no matter where you live.

    3. GKAM, given the massive amount of crap in your statements, there is no goddamn way you are an engineer. No engineer would ever state that EVs don’t have transmissions (they do, albeit somewhat different than a conventional automatic.). You are also getting massive subsidies at every level for your cars and your home solar system. That shit isn’t ‘free’. Do you ever wonder why you have such stratospherically high taxes in CA? Go look on the mirror.

      And you can enjoy the massive toxic footprint you will create when the battery packs in your car’s eventually wear out and they go to the landfill.

      Seriously, your comments are so full of failed bullshit that it beggars the imagination. No engineer talks this way. You are a lying troll.

      1. No engineer would ever state that EVs don’t have transmissions (they do, albeit somewhat different than a conventional automatic.).

        Electric cars do not have transmissions nor anything similar. They simply have a reduction gear to lower the motor(s) rpms to appropriate rpms for human beans.

    4. which means we now get free power for household and transportation…
      …we fuel up at home at night with cheap baseload power.

      So is it free from your solar cells, or cheap from fossil-fuel power? make up your mind

    5. Dear ‘GKAM,’

      You do know this is the internet, right? You know that we can paste your copypasta into a search engine and find that it has been spammed all over for several years, right?

      This does not do much for your credibility, nor your ultimate efficacy.


  14. Let’s face it, the world is moving on past single-use plastic foodware. The European Union has banned them, as have parts of Asia and even Kenya. It’s also been years since you could get a plastic bag in many advanced industrialized countries. Economies adapt and people adapt. It’s time for the U.S. to get with the program and not be another polluting, third-world backwater.

    This is the only planet we have. We must start to put its future ahead of corporate profits.

    1. My daddy drives a UFO
      Drops me off and
      there he goes.

    2. Right on, man, don’t let Big Plastic corrupt you with their all-expense paid junkets to Hawaii, their free booze and hookers, and their fat bribe checks.

      I mean, if you refuse to accept these things, there will be more for us.

    3. Ok, what “advanced industrialized countries” do not use plastic bags now?

  15. No preview option AND no edit button?

    KMW internet fail!

    1. And no ability to upvote the comment…

    2. Trudat.

    3. Reject reason… Dissenter.

  16. You are confusing them with people who care about facts. It is not the straws, the plastic, the environment they care about; it is their hatred of human thriving, and their desire for power to control your life. BTW – Have you ever tried to drink out of one of the new “paper” straws? Blech!

    1. Criticizing environmental regulations on efficiency grounds is exactly like criticizing communion wafers on nutritional grounds.

  17. “Removing plastic from our lives means adding extra grief to the lives of the food service workers who have to abide by the regulations. Spare a thought for them too, de Blasio.”

    It’s extra joy for the sanitation workers who are spared of the burden of carting once used plastic straws to golf courses and burying them. And for those food service workers who moonlight as sanitation workers, it’s a wash.

  18. The new system sucks less than the old one, but it still sucks.

  19. Serious question. What are we going to replace the plastic with? My understanding of history is that plastic replaced many, many things that were much harder to produce and had a much more negative impact on the environment. We going to go back to using wood for everything (that’s good for the environment /sarc)? Or, is there some new, unheard of material that has been discovered that will replace it?

  20. Idiot.

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