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New Paltz restaurants asked to break the plastic straw habit

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As we get ready to clear another 25 tons or so of trash from the shorelines in the May 5 Riverkeeper Sweep, we’re continuing to support year-round efforts to reduce plastic use. Last week, the Village and Town of New Paltz took us another step in the right direction with a resolution aiming to break the habit of handing out needless amounts of plastic straws at restaurants. Thank you New Paltz!

A high school student summed it up best: “Why waste your money on something that’s going to ruin the ocean?”

Plastic straws are being singled out around the country just like plastic bags and foam containers. We use them and dispose of them in crazy amounts, and we can easily shift to alternatives. The Last Plastic Straw movement has a pledge form available online and a list of participating restaurants. There are also cards that patrons can print and leave with their bill. In New York, the Wildlife Conservation Society has a Give a Sip campaign, complete with places to shop for alternatives to plastic. The message: “Hey New York, no more single-use plastic straws for me. I #GiveASip about our local wildlife. You should too.”

New Paltz Village Board Member KT Tobin was inspired to take action by a group of New Paltz High School seniors, and after reading a Facebook post by Riverkeeper Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley about the harms of using plastic straws. Tobin offered this local resolution, passed April 5 in a joint meeting of the Town and Village of New Paltz boards:

WHEREAS Disposable plastic straws are among the top 5 items found at shoreline cleanups around the United States, and

WHEREAS Riverkeeper Sweep cleanups of Hudson River shorelines have found that plastic foam and single-use plastics like straws are the most prominent items, and

WHEREAS Plastics like these fall apart into ever smaller bits until they are mistaken by fish and other wildlife for food and Riverkeeper, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, The Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean and others have found extraordinary concentrations of microplastics in the Hudson and NY Harbor, and

WHEREAS Since toxic contaminants adhere to these plastic bits and enter the food chain with the fish, we are exposed,

THEREFORE, we the Town and Village Boards of New Paltz, in order to reduce single use plastic straw usage, ask that restaurants in the Town and Village of New Paltz voluntarily adopt a policy to refrain from automatically handing out single use plastics straws and instead ask customers if they would like a straw first before providing them.

You can watch the full discussion here (beginning at the 16:00 mark):

While we work to get ourselves off plastic, we can all pitch in to remove it from our local shorelines. Please sign up to volunteer for one of the 100-plus projects happening throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City on Saturday, May 5, the 7th Annual Riverkeeper Sweep. Click here to find a project: https://www.riverkeeper.org/sweep/

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