For reasons still unknown, NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio blocked the passage of New York City Council bill Introduction 1775C, also known as the Skip the Stuff bill. 

This bill requires restaurants to provide plastic utensils, condiments, chopsticks, napkins and other foodware to take-out and delivery customers only upon request, rather than as a default. In doing so, the bill would cut back on the approximately 20,000 tons of (unrecyclable) plastic foodware annually in New York City’s waste stream, and save money for restaurant operators.

Artist Credit: @calvert_ayers

After two years of hard work by many individuals and groups that are part of the Reusable NYC Coalition, including our NYC Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, the bill had the support of a majority of council members. 1775C received a hearing on December 7, where 22 people spoke in favor of the bill, including Just Salad, a large local chain of restaurants. The NYC Hospitality Alliance, the leading restaurant industry group in NYC, also supported the bill. Nobody spoke in opposition.

After the hearing on the 7th, the bill was passed out of the Consumer Affairs Committee by an 8-1 vote on December 14. The bill was then put on the agenda for a final vote in the full Council on December 15. Around 10PM the night before, word got out that the bill was pulled from the agenda because the Mayor had “concerns”.

This was odd, because the Mayor’s own Departments of Sanitation and Consumer Affairs had reviewed the bill, and testified at the hearing that they were in support. The prime sponsor of the bill, Council Member Van Bramer, had also worked closely with the Mayor’s office to review the bill and make some minor adjustments to it in the days before the final vote.

Sadly, because the Council waited until so late in the legislative season to pass the bill, additional parliamentary procedures were required. Generally, a Council bill needs to “age” for one week between the committee vote and the final vote. If that amount of time is not possible, the Council needs a “Message of Necessity”, a short memo, from the Mayor in order to proceed. This gave Mayor DeBlasio an out to kill the bill, without having to veto it outright.

The current legislative session has now ended for the NYC Council. To pass the Skip the Stuff bill in 2022, the Reusable NYC coalition will need to find a new primary sponsor (CM Van Bramer has reached the end of his term), and get a majority of council members to once again sponsor the common sense legislation.

We may never find out why Mayor De Blasio killed this bill, but the NYC Chapter of the Surfrider foundation and Reusable NYC will get it passed in the next session without him.