New Ulster County law would make plastic straws request-only

(Dean Hochman)

A new law would mandate that customers in Ulster restaurants only be provided with a single-use plastic straw if they specifically asked for one. The proposed legislation will be the subject of a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 20.

The proposal is in response to recent concerns about plastic straws being bad for the environment. “It’s not going to save the world, it’s going to start a conversation,” said county Legislator Dave Donaldson, a Kingston Democrat and one of the law’s sponsors. “It’s to kind of to make people aware. It’s not a ban — restaurants and people that give out straws do it even when people don’t want him. Now they’ll ask. It’s the beginning of the conversation on getting things that you don’t need to want but get anyway.”

As opposed to the “Bring Your Own Bag Law” proposed by the legislature earlier this year which would outlaw polystyrene bags entirely and has been tabled until a SEQR review is completed, the straw law lets the consumer choose whether to contribute to the planet’s growing amount of plastic waste. Plastic straws claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of sea creatures and more than a million birds per year, according to the National Wildlife Federation. According to The New York Times, between 63 billion and 142 billion plastic straws are used globally per year.


To inform patrons of the law, eateries would be required to post signs that read “Single Use Straw Available on Request.” The law would carry a $25 dollar fine for a restaurants’ first offense, $50 for its second and a $100 fine for the third.

Donaldson, who is cosponsoring the bill with Legislator Joe Maloney of Saugerties, says that the initiative would save county businesses money.

Legislator Tracey Bartels, D-Gardiner, said she’s in favor. “One thing I like about the policy is that it’s really a first step. It’s not banning straws, its requiring that places that offer straws actually offer them,” Bartels said. “I think there’s both a local and national move toward awareness — I think if asked, a lot of people won’t take a straw.”

Donaldson said other communities which have enacted similar legislation have seen a marked decrease in plastic waste, and he said he hopes that this measure will snowball into other policies preventing waste. Donaldson noted that there has also been some discussion about regulating the use of plastic cutlery in the legislature.

“When you get Chinese food and they end up throwing in all these soy packets and things that I don’t use and I don’t want them but they throw them in anyway. Same with the plastic silverware, I don’t use it,” said Donaldson. “The problem is that they just stick it in there. The straws are starting a conversation on things that you’re not going to use.”

Ulster County Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, R-Wallkill, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

There are 5 comments

  1. branson

    why are you wasting my taxpayer dollars on this when we have a raging crime problem people are leaving here for southern states (no income tax, etc.) this is ridiculous

  2. Chris Naylor

    You people who say “they can’t find something more important to legislate” are classic Ulster County morons. This would stop exactly no one who wants a plastic straw from getting one, and result in less waste.

    Are there other important issues? Yes, and local legislatures are considering them also. You just don’t pay attention because you only chime in to be negative.

    Does the existence of a law that stops no one from enjoying plastic straws while reducing waste prevent the legislature from taking up other issues or other unrelated agencies from dealing with other problems (like police with drug problem)? Not at all.

  3. Stanley Hess

    “Bloomberg News estimates that on a global scale, straws would probably only account for 0.03 percent of total plastic waste by mass. Another study found that an estimated 46 percent of the debris in the ocean is abandoned fishing equipment.”

    Go ahead and pat yourselves on the back with your meaningless legislation to pad your garbage resumés legislators. Perhaps if we regulated major industries rather than enacting nickel and dime legislation we might advance as a society. But again. Great Job!

  4. Susan T.G.

    Why don’t restaurants pitch in to this effort by offering alternative straws, such as paper or reusable stainless. Check out Rough Draft in uptown where they use metal straws. And why is it so difficult to even find paper straws to purchase? Seems like a great entrepreneurial opportunity.

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