Mayor de Blasio Signs Executive Order to End City Reliance on Single-Use Plastic

April 11, 2019

Executive order directs city agencies to end purchasing single-use plastic foodware and replace it with compostable or recyclable alternatives; also directs them to keep a small supply of plastic items available upon request for people who need them

NEW YORK – Mayor de Blasio signed an executive order today that will end the direct City purchase of unnecessary single-use plastics in favor of compostable or recyclable alternatives. New York City purchases at least 1.1 million pounds of single-use plastic foodware every year, which includes plastic straws, cutlery, plates, bowls, cups, and trays. This Executive Order will reduce New York City’s carbon emissions by approximately 500 tons per year, decrease plastic pollution, and reduce risks to wildlife. The City estimates this EO will reduce the purchase of single-use plastics by city agencies by 95%, and will begin implementation by the end of the year.

The Administration recognizes that certain single-use plastic items including plastic straws are a continued necessity for some people—including New Yorkers with disabilities—who cannot use currently available alternative products and affirms the ability of all individuals to receive single-use plastic items without question or cost upon request. Under this executive order, a sufficient supply of single-use plastic foodware will continue to be made available for anyone who requests such items and maintained for other purposes including emergency preparedness and medical uses.

“Big Oil has been pushing single use plastics for too long – and it stops here,” said Mayor de Blasio. “They litter our beaches and parks, jam our recycling machines, and contribute to climate change. Our actions today will help us build a fairer city for all New Yorkers.”

As a result of the executive order, no new contracts will be signed for single-use plastic foodware other than to maintain a sufficient supply of certain items to be provided upon request. All relevant agencies are directed to begin reducing their use of single-use plastic immediately and must also prepare a reduction plan within 120 days. Full implementation of these reduction plans is targeted for the end of the year. Sustainability and accessibility are not mutually exclusive and this executive order is a model for other municipalities that are working to create an environmentally conscious plan that meets the needs of everyone.

Mayor de Blasio also announced today his support for pending City Council legislation to reduce the single-use plastic foodware in private establishments, and will work with the Council to ensure the legislation includes appropriate accommodations for individuals who cannot use non-plastic alternatives in a similar manner to this executive order.

Single-use plastic products, which are designed to be used once and then thrown away, are a pervasive threat to our neighborhoods, waterways, and climate. Across New York City, approximately 36 million pounds of single use plastic foodware is collected from our residential waste stream. Tens of millions more pounds are collected from commercial establishments. Discarded plastics also get discarded as litter and washed into waterways, impacting water quality and harming plant and animal life in New York City’s ecosystems. Reducing single-use plastic use, while simultaneously maintaining a sufficient supply of certain single-use plastic items since some people cannot use alternative products, will lessen the City’s reliance on petroleum-based products in a way that takes the needs of all New Yorkers into account.

Reducing the use of petroleum-based products in an inclusive way will help New York City meet its goal of reducing carbon emissions at least 80 percent by 2050. Over 99 percent of plastics derive from fossil fuels and six percent of the global oil market is used to create plastic products. For each ounce of polyethylene produced – the plastic most common for single-use plastics – one ounce of carbon dioxide is emitted. Carbon emissions are the leading cause of climate change, which is causing higher temperatures, more frequent and severe extreme weather events, and sea-level rise, which threatens New York City’s 520 miles of coastline.

This executive order builds on previous progress by the de Blasio administration to protect New York City from the damage done by petroleum-based products and the oil industry that is responsible for them. On January 1, 2019, the City implemented a ban on single-use foam products, such as cups, plates, trays, clamshell containers, or polystyrene loose fill packaging—also known as “packing peanuts.”

The City is also divesting its pension funds from fossil fuel reserve owners, has filed a lawsuit seeking damages from five fossil fuel companies for the billions of dollars that will be spent to protect New Yorkers from the effects of climate change, and has set a goal of doubling its pension fund investments in climate change solutions to $4 billion by 2021. This increased investment will represent two percent of the City’s $195 billion pension portfolio.

“Let’s call single-use plastic what it is: pollution,” said Mark Chambers, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “We need to leave theses harmful plastics behind, and reducing the City’s use of plastic foodware is a huge step in that direction.”

“New York City is doing everything it can to end our reliance on fossil fuels and that means tackling the pervasive problem of single-use plastics,” said Daniel A. Zarrilli, NYC’s Chief Climate Policy Advisor and OneNYC Director. “Today’s Executive Order will end the unnecessary use of single-use plastic foodware in City government operations by setting smart, inclusive standards that respect the needs of people with disabilities.”

“New York City is proud to lead the way in striking a balance between sustainability and accessibility,” said Commissioner Victor Calise of the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. “The Mayor’s Executive Order will significantly reduce plastic foodware purchased using City funds, while simultaneously ensuring that the needs of people with disabilities and others who cannot use alternative products are also at the forefront. MOPD is proud to work with our agency partners to reduce environmental waste in an inclusive way that takes the needs of all New Yorkers—including those with disabilities —into account.”

"Environmental protection is essential at every level- from global agreements, to national green emissions standards and green energy plans, to an individual's actions and choices. Following the statewide plastic bag ban and the citywide foam ban, this effort is another important step in reducing waste and negative environmental impact in any way we can," said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

“Now that New York is banning plastic bags, it makes sense to end the use of plastic utensils, too. We will all be better off relying less in fossil fuel based sources. The Mayor’s new policy is a step towards a more progressive city,” said Assistant Assembly Speaker Felix W Ortiz.

“The evidence is clear when it comes to the negative impact of plastics on the environment,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I congratulate Mayor de Blasio for taking a much needed step toward reducing single-use plastic cutleries and hope that this is also used as an opportunity to strengthen recycling and composting education in schools.”

“Plastic pollution is posing an existential threat to our oceans, our health, and our planet,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “We have to ask ourselves, are we going to prioritize plastics or our planet? The scale of this crisis demands urgent, radical government action. Otherwise, we will soon live in a world where there is more plastic in our oceans than fish. I'm excited to have the administration take this significant step forward in making our City the greenest in the nation, and support a legislative effort that I've been working on in the council."

“As climate change continues to be denied by leaders in Washington, it is imperative the City take tangible steps to address this issue at home. I commend Mayor de Blasio for signing this executive order, which will drastically reduce single-use plastics while including the needs of people with disabilities and those who cannot use alternatives," said Council Member Diana Ayala. “As Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addiction, I am happy this effort prioritizes accessibility and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Council to ensure pending legislation mirrors the inclusive provisions in this order.”

“Ending the City's reliance on single-use plastic foodware, while also ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to these implements when necessary, is an enormous win -- both for the environment and accessibility. The Mayor's order clearly demonstrates that shrinking our environmental footprint does not have to come at the cost of limiting options for residents with disabilities. Thank you to the Mayor's Office, my Council colleagues and all the New Yorkers who have fought so hard to move us away from single-use products and make our city cleaner and more sustainable for generations to come,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

“At our annual Riverkeeper Sweep, volunteers remove tons of single-use plastics, including plastic bags from our shorelines,” said Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay. "Not only is plastics pollution a scourge to the region, it’s a global scourge. Thanks to Mayor de Blasio for taking an important step to fight plastic pollution and supporting of the 5-cent fee on paper bags,” said Jessica Roff, Director of Advocacy and Engagement, Riverkeeper.

“Smart environmental policy doesn’t have to interfere with the civil rights of people with disabilities," said Joe Rappaport, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled. “We look forward to working with the administration and the City Council as it prepares legislation that will apply to all restaurants and similarly protects the rights of our community.”

“The disability community is as concerned with the environment as the general population, but many of us question the focus on plastic straws and single use plastic ware,” said Edith M. Prentiss, Disability Advocate. “We wonder if there aren't other material and items that banning might be more advantageous for the environment. Not all people with disabilities require plastic straws but we must protect the civil rights of those who do. We commend the Mayor for taking their rights into account rather than simply banning plastic straw like many other localities.”

“Single-use plastics pollute our waterways, contribute to our solid waste crisis, and cost taxpayers money. Eliminating the purchase of unnecessary plastic foodware will be a significant step for meeting the City's zero-waste goal.  Reducing carbon emissions by 500 tons per year will help fight climate change and improve public health. We commend Mayor de Blasio for his commitment to reducing plastic waste,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds Mayor de Blasio’s national leadership to eliminate single-use plastics from New York City’s waste stream and waterways. Through WCS’s Give a Sip campaign, we look forward to standing here again very soon with the Mayor and City Council to announce the enactment of a ban on single-use plastic straws at NYC restaurants and bars,” said John Calvelli, Wildlife Conservation Society Executive Vice President for Public Affairs.

“We applaud the Mayor for taking into account the concerns of constituents with disabilities while establishing eco-friendly policies and adjusting those policies accordingly,” said Sharon Shapiro-Lacks, Executive Director Yad HaChazakah-The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center Inc. “We sincerely hope that municipalities throughout America look to NYC as a model on how to involve constituents with disabilities in composing laws and regulations.”

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