Photo credit: Manila Bulletin

Councilmember Rafael Espinal, who represents the 37th District including Bushwick, East New York and portions of Bedford Stuyvesant, Brownsville and Crown Heights, introduced on Wednesday a bill to ban single-use plastic items like utensils.

If passed, the legislation would require the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs and the Department of Sanitation to annually evaluate available alternatives for single-use plastic items. If the agency determines that there is an economically and environmentally viable alternative, the single-use plastic item will be banned.

The new legislation mirrors existing laws that were just passed in the European Union, explained Espinal, who has been a strong advocate for more sustainability in NYC with proposed legislation for a plastic straws ban, green roofs for commercial buildings and a push for environmentally-friendly transportation.

Councilmember Rafael Espinal. Photo credit: Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats

“My legislation would put New York City at the forefront of the conversation around plastic waste and put us on a path toward a true zero-waste future,” said Espinal. “Plastic pollution poses an ever-growing threat to our marine ecosystems, our health and our planet. We cannot afford to sit on our hands when it comes to the mind-boggling amount of plastic that pours into our oceans every year, every month, every hour.”

According to numbers provided by Espinal’s office, eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, two-thirds of it from land-based sources. The plastic leaches harmful chemicals into the oceans and kills marine life. It is estimated that 100,000 sea creatures, including sea birds, whales, dolphins, fish and turtles, die each year from plastic pollution.

Unless drastic changes are implemented to improve waste infrastructure and curb plastic use, that amount is expected to increase ten-fold by 2025, according to a recent study in the journal Science.

Plastic pollution also affects our food and water sources, as Julia Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, pointed out. 

“Single-use plastics often end up clogging our waste stream or polluting our waterways,” said Tighe. “Taking steps to encourage the use of alternatives to these types of plastic items would be a significant step for the city in meeting its zero-waste goals.”

According to a 2017 report of tap water samples, the United States had a plastic fiber contamination rate of 94 percent, the highest rate among all countries from which samples were collected. Microplastics have also been discovered in shellfish and other marine animals consumed by humans. Although the impact plastic consumption has on human health is still largely unknown, some studies have linked them to cancer and birth defects.

“The scale of this crisis demands urgent, radical government action,” said Espinal. “Otherwise, we will soon live in a world where there is more plastic in our oceans than fish.”

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  1. All Rafael Espinal is doing is parroting the war on all forms of plastic. Blaming New Yorkers and even all Americans for plastic pollution in our water is manufacturing a crisis to create an issue to distract us from the incompetence in Cuomo’s and DeBlasio’s New York. With the loss of more than 25,000 Amazon high paying jobs plus another residual 100,000 newly created jobs due to Ocasio-Cortez still thinking that she’s in the 9th grade and not a responsible adult, New York State has become an unfriendly place for business. Major issues include revenue shortfall, crime, poor public school education, high taxes, depressed towns and cities upstate, roads and bridges falling apart, mass transit breakdowns, sexual abuse, rising hate crimes, companies moving to southern states, lost in population, housing sales down in many parts of the state, etc., and all Espinal, Ocasio-Cortez and now even Cuomo can think of as the number one issue in the state is a war on plastic. Espinal’s office has repeatedly release the same claim that of the 8 tons of plastic in the oceans but where does this originate, Mr. Espinal? If Mr. Espinal paid attention to TV Commercials, he, and others, will learn that the plastic pollution is in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, not found in the Atlantic. There is an organizationWWW.4OCEAN.COM founded by some men who were pissed off when during their vacation in Indonesia (for Mr. Espinal that’s a country of more than 1,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean south of the Asian continent) they found plastic garbage, which originated in China, all over the beaches. They formed a non-profit and are currently cleaning up the plastic on the Asian beaches and in the Pacific. Conveniently, Mr. Espinal routinely omits this in his regularly press releases and that this plastic pollution comes from China, not North America. Mr. Espinal and Mr. Cuomo now want to ban shopping plastic bags
    due to this Asian pollution. New Yorkers shouldn’t be blamed for pollution they do not cause. Instead, it would be nice if Mr. Cuomo would start traveling, per Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion, not by plane, but on Amtrak, which unlike California, does have fast train service, especially between NYC and Albany and covers the rest of the state fairly well. That’s what would be call governing by example. And start focusing the real problems of the state, not just a manufactured crisis.

  2. I, am many other New Yorkers, would like to know if Governor Andrew Cuomo, when he met with President Trump last week at the White House, traveled on a private plane which used a lot of the now dreaded fossil fuel, a commercial jet plane, which the plan of the New Green Deal calls for elimination or rode on Amtrak?
    The same should be asked regarding how Senators Schumer, Gillabrand, Booker, Menendez, Blumenthal and of course, Oscasio-Cortez means of traveling between New York and Washington?

  3. Lily raises a good question that the politicians who support Ocasio-Cortez’s New Green Deal should be setting an example and traveling on by Amtrak to Washington, of course, where it is feasible. Governor Cuomo now wants to show all that he is tough on environmental issues so he is in favor of eliminating all plastic bags at the supermarkets as he is of the opinion that all of our plastic bags somehow float from New York Harbor all the way around Cape Horn in South America and end up on the beaches of Bali in Indonesia, a 22,000 mile trip (note for Cuomo: Plastic pollution all comes from China). Perhaps Cuomo can start doing his own shopping at these stores and show us how he carries his groceries, no matter how heavy, in single or even doubled paper shopping bags and how he deals with these bags when they rip due to the weight or when it rains. This will give Cuomo first hand knowledge that bags which are provided for at the supermarkets are better when plastic than paper.

  4. What is the source which Espinal claims which states that 8 tons of plastic are in our oceans? If true, what type of plastic is found? Are they toys, containers, bags, stirrers or forks? I watched a commercial showing men cleaning up a beach in Bali and there were no plastic bags found or forks, just large plastic containers and toys. According to the site http://www.4ocean.com, it all comes from Asia, not Long Island. It appears that Councilman Espinal and others skipped out on their 9th grade world studies class as they aren’t familiar with a map of the world. Espinal is just seeking an issue instead of concentrating on real issues of his constituents: jobs, better education, better quality of life, low crime, safety, getting rid of drunk drivers and those who drive and use their cell phones/texting, better housing and not the basement apartments he advocates for, reliable mass transit. Instead Espinal and Cuomo are always looking to lower our living standard and quality of life by harassing us with new taxes, new fees like congestion fees for taking car service to our doctor’s appointments in Manhattan, and taking away our plastic bags, cutlery and coffee stirrers when all the plastic pollution comes from China. Instead of bothering us about our use of plastic, why aren’t Cuomo and Espinal complaining to China about the pollution of the oceans they cause? ? Instead, Espinal now wants us to stop using plastic forks and start eating with Chinese chop sticks.

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