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Adrian Grenier joins Espinal to ban plastic straws across NYC

Gruesome photos, stats dramatize plastic impact on marine life

May 23, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Rafael Espinal introduced legislation last May to ban all plastic straws from New York City restaurants, bars and food carts. Photo by William Alatriste, NYC Council

It’s the last straw.

One Brooklyn politician is introducing a bill that would ban all plastic straws from New York City restaurants, bars and food carts.

Councilmember Rafael Espinal (D-East New York) said the impetus behind the legislation comes from the alarming figure that an estimated 8 to 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year.

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It comes as no surprise, he said, that Brooklyn is at the forefront of the movement to prohibit the drinking instruments.

“Much of Brooklyn is on the NYC waterfront,” Espinal told the Brooklyn Eagle. “That’s why this issue is so personal to Brooklynites and all New Yorkers. I am proud to see many of our local venues in Brooklyn like Freehold, House of Yes, The Williamsburg Hotel and Brooklyn Bowl already going plastic straw-free.

“I look forward to uniting all Brooklyn and New York City businesses, advocates and consumers for the betterment of our environment.”

Plastic straws are dangerous because they cannot be recycled and animals often mistake them for food. The bill would require eateries to offer biodegradable or reusable straws such as paper, bamboo, metal or glass ones.

Some businesses like Starbucks, however, are already working to eradicate straws entirely. The coffee company recently introduced strawless lids at some of its stores.


For Olivia Wohl, 21, a part-time resident of Cobble Hill, she was surprised yet encouraged to see the alteration to Starbucks’ cups.

“It’s just amazing seeing such a huge corporate company like Starbucks making impactful and hopefully inspiring changes that will make a difference in the amount of plastic straws that are used in the world,” Wohl said.

“It’s a seemingly small but affecting revision, and I hope many other companies follow their lead.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Prospect Park Zoo and the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, has already eliminated plastic straws from its grounds through its “Give a Sip” campaign.

The detrimental effects of plastic straws on marine life came into the spotlight in February when an emaciated dead sperm whale washed ashore in Spain after swallowing roughly 64 pounds of plastic.

An autopsy revealed the animal had ingested plastic bags, plastic sacks and a plastic jerrycan, among other debris.

Sixty to 80 percent of all marine debris is composed of plastic and more than 260 species have ingested or been entangled in plastic debris, according to the society.  Oceanographers also fear that there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a British charity.

Adrian Grenier, a Fort Greene resident, actor and co-founder of Lonely Whale, said Brooklyn and beyond, with its international influence, can set the tone for the rest of the world.

Adrian Grenier. Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

“As a native New Yorker, I know that this city can make a massive impact — throughout all five boroughs,” Grenier told the Eagle. “As an international melting pot, we represent the need for global effort and collaboration for clean seas.

“I hope the people of New York and beyond will join Lonely Whale and now WCS who has followed our campaign and commit to #StopSucking by supporting Give A Sip in NYC. Together our small commitments on behalf of our ocean have the power to drive a massive impact.”

Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that calls itself “New York’s clean water advocate,” recently conducted a study with the Columbia University Earth Institute and found that microplastics are prevalent in the Hudson River. The organization also does an annual cleanup of 100 sites along the Hudson River and found that plastic straws and plastic bags were the most-found items.

“The average life cycle of a plastic bag or plastic straw is something like 15 minutes,” said Chrissy Remein of Riverkeeper. “This bill is going to drastically help us curb our behaviors in our daily lives and drastically improve the waterways.”  

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

An emaciated dead sperm whale washed ashore in Spain after swallowing roughly 64 pounds of plastic. Photo courtesy of Dirección General de Medio Natural. Consejería de Turismo, Cultura y Medio Ambiente (Región de Murcia, España)


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