This Tuesday, April 9th, Suffolk County lawmakers passed three bills at the Suffolk County Legislature in Riverhead. These bills ban the use of single-use plastic straws, cups, containers, beverage stirrers and other plastic and Styrofoam items used by food service establishments.
Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) sponsored the bills, she chairs the legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee as well as its Single-Use Plastic Reduction Task Force. “This is sweeping legislation to begin weeding out single-use plastics,” said Hahn.
When proposing the bills Hahn cited data from the World Ocean Conservancy stating that eight (8) million metric tons of plastics enter the oceans every year which adds to the One hundred and fifty (150) million metric tons that already circulate through our oceans. Hahn said the impacts have been “devastating to marine life and ocean ecosystems.” She continued to state that “Ingested plastic has been found in more than 60 percent of all seabirds and in 100 percent of sea turtles species. The impacts of plastic and, in particular, polystyrene are also a tangible threat to human health.”
Under the first bill, straws and stirrers would need to be biodegradable and will be made available by-request-only in sit-down restaurants and self-service beverage stations. This bill makes accommodations for the disabled whose medical conditions make it necessary for them to use of plastic straws, for these individual’s plastic straws would be available on request.
A separate bill bans restaurants from using Styrofoam takeout containers and packaging “peanuts”. The polystyrene ban exempts items used to store uncooked eggs, raw meat, pork, fish, seafood and poultry.
The third bill will ban the sale of single-use plastics at county parks and beaches, including plastic utensils, plates and cups. prohibiting the county’s park and beach concessionaires from using single-use cups, plates, utensils or beverage straws made from non-biodegradable substances. These measures will go into effect when current park vendor contracts are up and new contracts are negotiated.
The three bills passed the Legislature without an opposing vote. The changes affecting food establishments and retailers will begin January 1, 2020 to allow businesses time to adjust ordering and use existing inventory.