Following the Westchester County Board of Legislators unanimous passage on Monday, March 6, County Executive George Latimer is immediately signing into law a measure aimed at further reducing the amount of plastics in the County’s waste stream.
In addition to this new law, Westchester is increasing recycling and reducing waste – and while the environmental benefits of waste reduction and recycling are well known, it also makes good sense economically.
In 2022, 74,456 tons of curbside recyclables collected by municipalities within the County’s Refuse Disposal District were delivered to the Daniel P. Thomas Material Recovery Facility (MRF). Revenue from the sale of these recyclables totaled $7,006,704.59, an increase of over 95% from 2020.
Over the past 20 years, the amount of residential solid waste disposed in Refuse Disposal District No. 1 in Westchester has decreased by 21%. After peaking at 495,659 tons in 2003, the amount of residential trash was reduced to 390,243 tons in 2021, a reduction of 105,416 tons. Over this same period, Westchester’s population grew by about 6.8%, adding more than 64,000 additional residents. During that time span, the County consistently posted an annual recycling rate of at least 50%, far outpacing the national average of 32%.
The new measure limiting plastic utensils will be signed into law at a ceremony hosted outside of the Board of Legislators Chambers with the main sponsors of the legislation Legislator Erika Pierce and Chairwoman Catherine Borgia.
The law states that:
· No food service establishment shall provide single-use foodware or condiment packets to any dine-in or take-away customer unless specifically requested;
· Any single-use plastic beverage stirrers or single-use plastic beverage “splash sticks” are no longer permitted. Retail food stores may sell packages or boxes of single-use plastic beverage stirrers or single-use plastic beverage splash sticks to their customers;
· Lastly, when requested, single-use foodware items or condiment packets must be provided individually and not in a package containing multiple items.
Latimer said: “As we have highlighted time and time again, Westchester County is reducing what we are putting into our waste stream. Through commonsense measures like this, or the myriad of programs undertaken by our County’s Department of Environmental Facilities (DEF), Westchester County is leading the way on reducing waste and I am proud to sign this measure into law. I commend the work done by the Board of Legislators and Legislator Erika Pierce notably on this important yet simple measure.”
Borgia said: “Our Board is hyper-focused on making Westchester a zero-waste County, and this bill puts us in the right direction. “Upon Request” will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but it gives the added benefits of saving food service businesses money during a time of financial uncertainty. I applaud Legislator Pierce for her steadfast leadership in getting this sensible piece of legislation passed that positively affects us all and the environment around us.”
“We are drowning in unnecessary single-use items, most of which are made of plastic and all of which are being paid for by our local businesses. Nationwide, billions of these food accessories are thrown away annually, many of which were only used once, and the vast majority cannot be recycled. They add to the plastic pollution crisis, litter our neighborhoods, rivers, and ocean, add to overflowing landfills, and feed incinerators. Local business owners pay for them; we pay to dispose of them, and those who live near the areas where they have been disposed of pay again. This common-sense law is a simple but bold step for Westchester: ‘Upon Request’ we will reduce waste and save our local businesses money, all while providing customers with what they need.”
Board of Legislators Vice-Chairwoman & BoL Environmental Committee Chair Nancy Barr said: “Today, Westchester is taking a firm stand to combat climate change by decreasing unwanted single-use items from the waste stream. Single-use items, mostly made from the fossil fuel byproduct plastic, account for nearly half of all discarded items. Depending on the type of plastic, those items might not even be recyclable making source reduction the most effective way to improve the environment.”