New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order April 11 that will end the direct city purchase of unnecessary single-use plastics in favor of compostable or recyclable alternatives. New York City purchases at least 1.1 million pounds of single-use plastic foodware every year, which includes plastic straws, cutlery, plates, bowls, cups and trays. This executive order is designed to help the city reduce carbon emissions by approximately 500 tons per year, decrease plastic pollution and reduce risks to wildlife. The city estimates this executive order, which will begin to be implemented by year’s end, will reduce the purchase of single-use plastics by city agencies by an estimated 95 percent.
In a statement, the mayor’s administration noted that certain single-use plastic items including plastic straws are a continued necessity for some people—including New Yorkers with disabilities—who cannot use currently available alternative products, which is why the order affirms the ability of all individuals to receive single-use plastic items without question or cost upon request. Under this executive order, a sufficient supply of single-use plastic foodware will continue to be made available for anyone who requests such items and maintained for other purposes including emergency preparedness and medical uses.
“'Big Oil’ has been pushing single-use plastics for too long—and it stops here,” says Mayor de Blasio. “They litter our beaches and parks, jam our recycling machines, and contribute to climate change. Our actions today will help us build a fairer city for all New Yorkers.”
As a result of the executive order, no new contracts will be signed for single-use plastic foodware other than to maintain a sufficient supply of certain items to be provided upon request. All relevant agencies are directed to begin reducing their use of single-use plastic immediately and must also prepare a reduction plan within 120 days.
Mayor de Blasio also announced his support for pending city council legislation to reduce the single-use plastic foodware in private establishments, and will work with the council to ensure the legislation includes appropriate accommodations for individuals who cannot use non-plastic alternatives in a similar manner to this executive order.
Across New York City, approximately 36 million pounds of single-use plastic foodware is collected from the residential waste stream. Tens of millions more pounds are collected from commercial establishments. Discarded plastics also get discarded as litter and washed into waterways, impacting water quality and harming plant and animal life in New York City’s ecosystems. Reducing single-use plastic use, while simultaneously maintaining a sufficient supply of certain single-use plastic items for those who cannot use alternative products, will lessen the city’s reliance on petroleum-based products in a way that takes the needs of all New Yorkers into account, the administration says.