By Raanan Geberer
New Yorkers will soon say goodbye to plastic straws, bags, forks and water bottles — that is, if a bill introduced Wednesday by Councilmember Rafael Espinal, a candidate for public advocate, makes it through the City Council.
Espinal’s bill, formally known as Int. 1407-2019, would ban “single-use plastics for which there is a reasonable sustainable alternative,” his office said.
According to a United Nations environmental report, “Single Use Plastics,” these are items designed to be used once and then thrown away, such as “food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, straws and stirrers, other types of plastic bags, and foam take-away containers”
The report adds, “These are the waste products of a throwaway culture that treats plastic as a disposable material.”
“Plastic pollution poses an ever-growing threat to our marine ecosystems, our health and our planet,” Espinal said. “We cannot afford to sit on our hands when it comes to the mind-boggling amount of plastic that pours into our oceans every year, every month, every hour.”
As Espinal mentioned, one of the main concerns of environmentalists is the buildup of plastic products in the world’s oceans. The journal Science reported that “Eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, two-thirds of it from land-based sources. The rate is roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute.”
Because of this accumulation, an estimated 100,000 sea creatures, including sea birds, whales, dolphins, fish, turtles and others, die each year from plastic pollution, according Science.
In one well-publicized case, a dead sperm whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia last year was found to have consumed a collection of plastic trash that included 115 drinking cups, 25 plastic bags, plastic bottles and more. The plastic contents of the whale’s stomach ultimately weighed 13.2 pounds, according to National Geographic.
Last year, Espinal introduced a similar bill in the Council with a narrower scope. As the Eagle reported at the time, that bill would have banned all plastic straws from New York City restaurants, bars and food carts.
“I am proud to see many of our local venues in Brooklyn like Freehold, House of Yes, The Williamsburg Hotel and Brooklyn Bowl all going plastic straw-free,” the councilmember told the Eagle at that time.
One of the earlier bill’s main supporters was Adrian Grenier, a Fort Greene resident, actor and co-founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation.
“As a native New Yorker, I know that this city can make a massive impact — throughout all five boroughs,” Grenier said.