Public weighs in on Schenectady straw ban

Three people deliver comments at City Council meeting

SCHENECTADY — The city appears poised to approve a ban on plastic straws with little controversy. 

The public got its chance to weigh in on the city’s proposed ban, but just three people delivered comments at the City Council meeting on Monday.

Ray Voight noted the sheer amount of plastic debris he picked up at a recent cleanup event in Bellevue. 

“I really think it’s a step in the right direction to ban plastic straws,” he said, noting the trend toward culling plastic usage, including the new state law banning plastic bags that takes effect next March.

He noted the use of paper straws when he was a kid, and said people didn’t appear to mind.

Frances Callahan agreed asking the public to go without plastic straws wouldn’t pose a major disadvantage.

She noted corporations like McDonald’s are making efforts to curb the use of plastic, including phasing out plastic straws in the U.K.

Experts say plastic is increasing polluting oceans and killing wildlife.

“By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish,” Callahan said, citing a 2016 report.

The City Council will vote on the proposed law on June 24.

“I often think Schenectady gets a bad rap in that we’re not progressive and on the forefront of things,” Callahan said. “But this is an opportunity to take on a leadership role.”

Not everyone was supportive of the concept.

Mary McClain cycled through a litany of problems she said the city must first tackle, including non-working clocks at City Hall, litter-choked streets and poorly-maintained city properties.

“Right now, there are weeds growing pretty high in the lawn at City Hall,” McClain said. “Other pressing issues already here do not get the attention. The council should find a better use of their time.”

While no representatives from the food and beverage industry spoke on Monday, several local restaurants climbed on board the concept when Council members Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas and John Polimeni announced the legislation in April, including Slidin’ Dirty and Ambition Coffee & Eatery.

The lawmakers said cities are leading the charge nationwide on banning plastic straws, which they contend have driven up municipal recycling costs after China stopped accepting U.S. recyclables. 

If approved by the City Council, the ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.  

Restaurants would be required to provide biodegradable straws or forego them entirely. Establishments may provide “suitable” straws or stirrers for consumers with a disability or medical condition upon request, according to an early draft of the legislation. 

Violating the ban would be punishable by fines. 

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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