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Sea Cliff bans plastic straws and cutlery, foam containers

The village law goes into effect Jan. 1 and prohibits food establishments from providing the single-use items.

The straws used at the Metropolitan Bistro in

The straws used at the Metropolitan Bistro in Sea Cliff are corn-based plastic and biodegradable and will not be affected by a village ban on petroleum-based plastic straws effective Jan. 1. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

Sea Cliff officials have banned plastic straws, stirrers and single-use cutlery and foam containers in the village, citing their negative impact on the environment.

Mayor Edward Lieberman said the ban will make “for a cleaner and a more productive beachfront and our natural resources, and not being infiltrated with these non-biodegradable substances.” 

The local law, which the village board passed unanimously at its Nov. 12 meeting, goes into effect Jan. 1. Food establishments, including restaurants, delis, food carts and grocery stores, will be prohibited from providing single-use straws and utensils that are made predominantly from polypropylene, and foam containers made of expanded polystyrene, commonly known under the brand name Styrofoam.

The law makes an exception  for people with disabilities, allowing them to request plastic straws.

“It's finding its way into the oceans where it's ingested by marine life and it can stay really forever,” Village Trustee Dina Epstein said during a presentation at the public hearing on the law.

Businesses that don't comply with the ban will be issued a violation without a fine on the first offense, a $100 fine on the second and a $200 fine for any  subsequent offense. The ban does not apply to emergency workers during declared emergencies. It also does not apply to foam used for insulation in buildings.

 The Metropolitan Bistro in Sea Cliff made the switch to corn-based plastic straws this summer.

“It’s easy, if we just don’t give out straws to everybody. Half the people don’t use them anyway,” owner William Long said, adding he made the change at the urging of his son Graham, an office and bar manager at the restaurant.

The new straws "look and feel like plastic; because they’re plant based, they’ll break down quicker," Graham Long said. They wanted to switch to paper straws because they break down even quicker, but paper straws are more expensive than either petroleum-based plastic or corn-based plastic, he said.   

The movement away from plastic straws and utensils has been gaining momentum across the country. Seattle banned them from bars and restaurants earlier this year, as did Malibu, California, and other cities.

Newsday reported in August that 51 Long Island restaurants had agreed to stop providing plastic straws to customers. In September, East Hampton banned plastic straws and other municipalities are considering similar laws. In July, the coffee shop chain Starbucks announced it would stop using plastic straws.

Kevin Dugan, government affairs director for the Albany-based New York State Restaurant Association, said the trade group generally supported such anti-plastic legislation and “the movement behind becoming more environmentally friendly.”

“We understand the need to do such things,” Dugan said, but he added the association is concerned about availability and higher costs of alternatives.

He also said different proposals for similar laws around the state create a problem for the industry.

“We sort of wish that it wouldn't necessarily be acted on county by county or village by village,” Dugan said. The restaurant industry would prefer to see rules at the statewide level so “we're playing by the same set of rules.”

Sea Cliff's ban on plastics

Starting Jan. 1, Sea Cliff food providers no longer will be allowed to give customers single-use items made of petroleum-based or natural gas-synthesized plastics including:

  • Straws
  • Stirrers
  • Cutlery

Expanded-polystyrene foam containers, also known by the brand name Styrofoam, will be banned for single-use food packaging. The ban does not apply to prepackaged foods or containers of raw fish or meat.

Source: Sea Cliff Village

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