Letter To The Editor: Protecting our earth through a pandemic


To the Editor:

While excited to read about the recent plastic bag ban in Tompkins County (“Shoppers, businesses adjust to plastic bag ban,” March 11 2020), I would like to bring up two other plastic bans that will benefit our state.

Earlier this month,  the New York State Legislature passed a bill as part of the 2020 budget plan that established a  statewide ban on polystyrene food containers and packing materials (the foam ones). This ban will take effect in January 2022. 

In addition to this, there is another bill currently being discussed in the NYS Legislature, for plastic straws only upon request. Many people are not aware of these bills, and I think that all residents of New York should be informed.

Polystyrene and plastic straws are just as much as a threat to the environment as plastic bags. Polystyrene breaks down  into “microplastics,” which pollute the ocean and the air. Microplastics kill marine life--and not just sea turtles. Zooplankton, which we unknowingly rely on to sequester carbon, are  affected by plastic pollution. Polystyrene can also cause liver and kidney damage in humans. It’s the last thing we want in our food and beverages.

Plastic straws litter waterways all around the world, choke marine life (as many people have seen in the viral video of the sea turtle with a straw up its nose), and are unnecessary for most people. The bill requires that restaurants will only offer plastic straws if the customer requests it.  This will save businesses money while helping to save the environment.

A major issue with the “plastic straws upon request” bill is that many members of the disabled community rely on plastic straws -- paper, metal, and other straw alternatives physically won’t work for some people. This is why the bill (which originally proposed banning straws entirely) has switched to allow for  “straws upon request.” People who need or want plastic straws would simply ask the server for a straw. For everyone else, this would cut back on single-use plastic pollution. Even a change like this, which might be considered small, will have an impact, and we must take the chance to make an impact wherever we can.

I urge residents of New York to research this bill, Assembly Bill 90-A, introduced by Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal.

I am a student at Bennington College, now taking a class on plastic pollution remotely.  I believe that even during a pandemic, we still need to take actions to protect the earth. It’s the only one we have.



Jorin Clougherty

163 Yaple Road, Ithaca, NY 14850





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