The war on plastic straws
New York City has any number of problems that need attention. One that isn’t a problem is…plastic straws. But the city council, in what passes for wisdom, has decided to tackle the plastic straw menace head-on.
Naturally, as Reason’s Christian Britschgi writes, the result is an anti-business fiasco:
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.
Disabled rights activists pushed back – “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.”
And so the final outcome is an ordinance that only a bureaucrat could love:
New York City’s straw law attempts to address [the disability issue] 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.
Making plastic straws the target of an environmental crusade never made much sense when there are far larger pollution issues to address…like how to recycle the coming wave of batteries from electric cars.
That’s a tough problem requiring a lot of thought, capital, and creativity. Far easier, then, for pols who lack all those qualities to go after plastic straws, instead.