Communities Seek Limits On Plastic Straws | WAMC

Communities Seek Limits On Plastic Straws

May 1, 2019

As included in this year’s state budget, New York State will ban single-use plastic bags in 2020. But some communities are taking steps to address another kind of plastic pollution.

Schenectady City Councilor Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas wants to ban plastic straws.

“They don’t biodegrade. They don’t go through the recyclers. If you find anything on the street it always seems to be a straw, from a litter standpoint,” said Zalewski-Wildzunas.

Zalewski-Wildzunas and fellow Democratic City Councilor John Polimeni are proposing legislation that would ban plastic straws in the city. She says several businesses have already moved to paper, bamboo, metal straws.

The councilors plan to introduce the legislation at the next City Council committee meeting on Monday, May 6th.

Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy said he’s interested in seeing the legislation.

“It’s a step in the right direction. I think it’s a small thing that people can grasp. I look forward to seeing what the council has in their actual legislation and using it as a platform to message this going forward,” said McCarthy.

Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas says she thinks banning one type of plastic waste is a start.

“John Polimeni and I had a one-off conversation about you know…the straws are a good start but we need to go further than that,” said Zalewski-Wildzunas.

The move to limit or ban types of single-use plastics is catching on in more places in order to keep trash out of landfills and the ocean.

On Tuesday, Maine became the first state to ban single-use plastic foam food and drink containers.

A student at the University at Albany is pushing the university to ban plastic straws on campus.

Grace McGrath, a 19-year-old student with senior standing, introduced a proposal that was passed by the legislative bodies of both the Student Association and Graduate Student Association.

The move would still need to be approved by the college administration, and McGrath knows that it may not be a complete ban – she says certain outside vendors on campus like Starbucks have their own straw policies.

“I think plastic straws are not going to be completely banned. I would love if that was the case. But, understandably, we have work with the different communities that are on campus. And some communities are like ‘we want some plastic straws.’ So it will be a lot less plastic straws,” said McGrath.

The campus does have a recent history of cutting down on single-use plastics, taking steps to limit bottled water sales.

For McGrath, the straw solution is a first step. She says she wants a plastic-free world and hopes to spread the word this summer.

“I’m going to try to build up a coalition throughout the state and  just get people informed about it and why it’s important to try and start moving away from plastic. So hopefully I can get the attention of the governor and any Senators and legislators…”

McGrath’s straw legislation would still need to be passed by UAlbany’s University Auxiliary Services board, which will meet next on May 10th.