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NYC's “Skip the Stuff” Plastic Utensil Ban Takes Effect

August 3, 2023 - New York, NY

New York City, the food delivery and take-out capital of the world, has enacted a new law prohibiting restaurants, ghost kitchens, and food delivery platforms from providing single-use plastic utensils and other bag stuffers in off-premise orders unless requested by the customer. The “Skip the Stuff” ban, recently signed into law by NYC Mayor Eric Leroy Adams, went into effect on July 31, 2023.

How We Got Here

Back in 2020, when restaurants were suddenly faced with a high demand for take-out and delivery, the need for to-go packaging soared, leaving operators sourcing any kind of packaging they could get their hands on. Environmental concerns took a back seat as single-use plastic containers and utensils piled up in landfills and oceans, resulting in what some environmentalists referred to as a “plastic tsunami.”

As delivery demands continue to skyrocket, so too has the restaurant industry’s reliance on cheap disposables. But in 2023, it’s getting a lot easier to be “green” as sustainable packaging is more readily available. So, while restaurants take part in this new departure from single use plastics, choosing the right eco-friendly food delivery containers for your restaurant is equally critical.

For more information on sustainable packaging solutions, see our blog post, Easy Being GREEN: Simple Solutions to Sustainable Packaging.

In response to this growing problem, environmentally-conscious New York City lawmakers, eager to get back to more sustainable solutions, devised a plan to reduce the city’s booming food delivery industry’s plastic waste. The new ban that prohibits restaurants and food delivery platforms in the city from providing plastic utensils in delivery and takeout orders unless specifically requested by the customer also extends to other to-go staples like napkins, extra take-out containers, and condiment packets.

According to a NY government website, the "Skip the Stuff" law was created to save businesses money by cutting down packaging costs, help environmental efforts, and ensure a "cleaner, greener city."

Why it Matters

Single-use plastic utensils and other typical delivery bag enclosures that are used and immediately tossed are inundating landfills. To make matters worse, some plastics never even make it to the landfill and actually end up in the oceans.

The ”Skip the Stuff” law doesn’t mean these items will be gone forever (at least for right now.) Lawmakers who drafted the law hope that New Yorkers, who can still request utensils, napkins, and condiments when placing their orders, will think twice and more eco-consciously.

Create Some Buzz Around the Ban

New Yorkers, like folks in many cities across the country, are all too familiar with the kitchen drawer overflowing with long-forgotten packets of soy sauce, ketchup, mayo, and duck sauce. While this new law hopes to help the restaurant industry cut down on plastic waste and make NY a greener city, restaurants can use this as an opportunity to create some buzz around the ban.

1: Count the condiment packets contest: Create a fun hashtag and ask customers to count their packets, submit a photo on your social media page, and use your hashtag. Then award the winner with a free meal or other prize. Extend the fun by awarding customers with the most soy sauce, duck sauce, and ketchup packets with a free dessert.

2: Art Contest: Host a contest for the most creative design using plastic ware and condiments packets. Think mulit-media art installations, sculptures, or posters. Post the winner on your social media channels and encourage participants to share on theirs by offering a discount.

3. Upcycle Recipe Contest: Hold a contest for the craziest recipes using Chinese Food condiment packets. Again, post the winner of the contest, along with the recipe all over your social media to create some buzz around the ban.

4: Collection Box: Set Up a collection box where customers can drop off their old plastic ware and condiments in exchange for a free drink or dessert.

5. Earth Day, Everyday: Instead of waiting until April, frame an Earth Day, Everyday promotion that shows your restaurant’s commitment to sustainability.

As of right now, customers in NYC may still request extra napkins, utensils, or condiment packets, and restaurants may provide them. But delivery bags will no longer be packed with the familiar “stuff” that the law is designed to “skip.” Though it’s not entirely clear how the city plans to monitor whether a restaurant is abiding by the law, city officials have said that there will be a warning period for the new requirement. From now through June 30, 2024, restaurants that violate the law will be issued a warning, but as of July 1, 2024, fines will be issued.

Take Away

Drastically reducing---and eventually eliminating---unnecessary single-use plastic items from restaurant takeout and delivery orders, New York City is getting behind sustainable solutions. By skipping the stuff that piles up in delivery bags, kitchen drawers, and landfills, NYC’s new law is helping restaurants reduce waste, save money, and paint a greener future.

By Eileen Strauss


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