Plastic Straws

Amy Liu

Paper straws are quickly replacing traditional plastic straws at restaurants and cafes across Suffolk County under a new law targeting single-use plastics. The law, which came into effect on January 1, requires that all straws and stirrers provided by food-service establishments be biodegradable along with their wrappers.

Pre-packaged beverages with plastic straws included, such as juice boxes, are exempt from this law, and plastic straws are still available upon request for those with medical conditions or disabilities. The new local law joins a wave of plastic bans across the nation in an effort to limit environmental impact, which has created controversy over the practicality and cost of the newly-required plastic alternatives.

During discussions on the bill, which was passed without opposition in April 2019 by the Suffolk County legislature, concerns were raised over the potential consequences the new changes would pose to businesses. According to CNBC, paper straws cost around ten times more than their plastic counterparts. However, supporting legislators quickly countered that environmentally-friendly legislation had been put off for too long due to cost. 

The plastic straw ban joins two other concurrently-passed laws also addressing widespread plastic use. Also effective January 1 is a law banning restaurants from using styrofoam takeout containers. The plastic used in the commonly-found containers is called polystyrene and has been shown in studies conducted by the World Health Organization to be a probable carcinogen. Additionally, its manufacturing process produces large amounts of hazardous waste, incineration releases toxic fumes, and recycling is difficult and impractical, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.