Suffolk County is the first county in New York State to restrict the use of plastic straws according to County Executive Steve Bellone, who on Earth Day (April 22, 2019) signed a pair of bills banning restaurants and retailers from distributing plastic straws and stirrers as well as Styrofoam products. The move comes after some local municipalities have passed similar legislation regarding plastic and polystyrene products – including Southampton (read more about that law here) – as well as state and county laws banning single-use plastic bags. If you operate a food service establishment in Suffolk County, here’s what you need to know.
Under the new legislation, the ban on plastic straws, stirrers, and Styrofoam will take effect on January 1, 2020. Your server dropping a handful of individually wrapped plastic straws on your table will be a distant memory, with restaurants, delis, and food service establishments providing straws and stirrers only if asked (and even then, the product must be biodegradable, not plastic). (Note that those who have a disability or medical condition will still be able to request a plastic straw.) And as with Southampton’s ban, the new Suffolk County law also bans food and beverage business from using polystyrene (“Styrofoam”) take-out containers – unless used to store eggs, raw meat, pork, fish, seafood, and poultry – as well as the use of packaging “peanuts,” starting next year as well.
In an extension of Southampton’s ban, Suffolk County lawmakers also passed a bill to ban single-use plastic utensils, plates, and cups distributed by vendors at county parks and beaches, which would go into effect when the current park vendor contracts are up. Such a move would also require the County to install more water fountains to allow for bottle refilling.
Suffolk County restaurants and food establishments should start preparing now for the transition to biodegradable options – including paper, bamboo and cardboard, among others. According to the New York State Restaurant association, the market has not yet caught up to the demand (https://www.newsday.com/business/plastic-straw-styrofoam-ban-suffolk-1.29639871), so the supply and the cost of alternative options could become more challenging as January 1, 2020 approaches. Get your orders in now!
While the switch to biodegradable options will undoubtedly cost business owners more, savvy restaurateurs can capitalize now by switching to biodegradable options before 2020, demonstrating environmental awareness to millennial consumers who may reward this forward thinking with loyalty. Further, most Long Islanders agree that environmental cleanup costs are sky-high, and a decrease in plastic litter can make a major difference. Surrounded by water, Long Island is particularly affected by plastics polluting the waterways we rely on for food, livelihood, and pleasure. The public has been particularly focused on sea animals washing ashore sick or dying from eating or becoming trapped in plastics.
By helping to reduce this type of waste, restaurants can promote their forward-thinking attitudes and attract new customers. Once again, please contact us with any compliance questions you may have.