Those much-maligned single-use plastics had a brief reprieve during the pandemic, when an unfounded fear of COVID's surface transmitting powers prompted jurisdictions to suspend their bans on bags and straws. One unfortunate consequence of our halting return to normality is that those items are back in officials' sights.
Come November, a straw law passed by New York City in May 2021 will go into effect, leaving businesses open to fines for any number of straw-related infractions. That includes the grievous offense of providing a patron with a single-use, non-compostable plastic straw when the customer has not first requested one.
Spurred by some bad stats and bizarre social theories, cities and states started passing these "straw on request" laws in earnest in 2018. Plastics manufacturers and restaurant associations often got on board with them as an alternative to more restrictive bans.
One major source of opposition to these laws was disability rights activists, who worried that such regulations could prompt businesses to get rid of the utensil altogether, or to subject physically handicapped straw requestors to invasive questions about why they need one.
New York City's straw law attempts to addresses this by also requiring businesses to keep a sufficient stash of single-use plastic straws in stock to be handed out upon request. Businesses are also prohibited from asking about a customer's reason for wanting a plastic straw.
In addition, the law requires that restaurants that have self-service drink stations to post signs informing customers about the availability of single-use plastic straws. Some food service businesses must also maintain distinct, labeled bins that are intended to collect compostable, plastic straws. Plastic stirrer sticks are banned entirely.
For the law's first year of being in effect, the city agencies tasked with enforcing it will be required to give businesses a warning for their first violation. Come November 2022, a first violation will come with a $100 fine. The second and third violations would net a business owner $200 to $300 fines.
On Friday, an exasperated New York City Councilmember Kalman Yeger tweeted out the fine schedule for this long list of straw faux pas.
"How much does NYC hate business? Here's the fine schedule being implemented to terrorize NYC businesses for the terrible offenses of giving someone a plastic straw, and also NOT giving someone a plastic straw," he fumed.
They voted poorly.