Plastic Straws Ban Testimony at NYC City Hall

plastic straws

The NYC Hospitality Alliance team and members participated in a press conference and testified at City Hall in support of legislation that would ban the use of plastic straws in NYC because they hurt our environment and ocean life.

Thursday, June 21, 2018
250 Broadway, 14th floor
Committee Room
New York, NY 10007

Comments of the New York City Hospitality Alliance on Int. 0936-2018 a Local Law to amend the administrative code of the city of New York, in relation to prohibiting single-use plastic straws and stirrers for beverages.

My name is Andrew Rigie and I’m the Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a not-for-profit association representing thousands of restaurants and nightlife establishments throughout the five boroughs, many of which are leaders in implementing sustainable business practices. Whether sourcing organic vegetables from local farmers or working with sustainable fisheries, our members recognize their mission is not only to serve delicious food and offer gracious hospitality but to do so while nurturing our planet.

That’s why we carefully considered Council Member Espinal’s, Int 0936-2018, which bans the use of single-use plastic beverage straws and beverage stirrers. As an alternative, restaurants, and bars would need to offer customers compostable plant-based or paper straws, or not provide straws at all.

As you know, New York City’s restaurants and bars are already over-regulated, so many new regulations are greeted with skepticism by our industry. However, we believe we must still consider each on its own merits. And, after careful consideration of the consequences plastic straws have for our environment, in particular, the oceans and marine life with which our industry shares a special partnership, we proudly support the plastic straw ban.

In a survey we conducted, nearly 85% of restaurateurs, who operate over 400 restaurants support a ban on plastic straws. Of the remaining respondents, a small percentage had no opinion. Others supported the concept of a ban but opposed it at this time because they aren’t familiar with suitable compostable options. And less than 10% of respondents outright oppose the ban, mostly citing the increased costs of compostable straws as the reason.

Greenstaurant July 2018 Clamshell 728×90

We are sensitive to these concerns and believe there is a growing market of compostable straw options that will continue to improve in quality. And we believe that market forces will push the price down further if the buying power of New York City restaurants and bars is unleashed. Should this plastic straw ban advance, we’re committed to working with manufacturers and distributors to ensure our members have access to high-quality compostable straw options at competitive prices.

We ask the sponsors of this legislation to consider a few amendments to this proposal. The first is to recognize the size of the New York City market for plastic straws, and include a provision giving the appropriate agency the authority to suspend enforcement if they determine that supply does not meet demand, or if there are not suitable options available in specific categories of straws. The second is to move enforcement to a more appropriate agency, the Department of Environmental Protection, from the Department of Health, an agency that has imposed many unnecessary regulatory burdens on restaurants, and which will surely make many of them sour on the positive intent of this bill. This will also allow the ban to impact all businesses that use straws, not just restaurants and bars, and reduce the chance that a lawsuit will be filed challenging the law, similar to that against the Department of Health’s proposed sugary drink regulation. Finally, we would like to further review with the Council the provision regarding disabilities to ensure people with disabilities have access to straws when appropriate without placing a business in a situation where they may inadvertently violate human right laws or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We thank you for your consideration and leadership on environmental issues and are happy to support sensible efforts that will help sustain our environment.

Respectfully submitted,
Andrew Rigie
Executive Director, NYC Hospitality Alliance
arigie@thenycalliance.org

Andrew Rigie
Andrew Rigie is the Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, a trade association formed in 2012 to foster the growth and vitality of the industry that has made New York City the Hospitality Capital of the World. Learn more at thenycalliance.org/