New bill would require NYC restaurants to provide reusable food containers to patrons

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Reusable food containers could be next step for greener dining in NYC
The bill would require NYC fast-casual restaurants to offer reusable food packaging for customers taking food to go. Dani Beckstrom has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A group of New York City officials has come together to introduce legislation that would require restaurants to offer reusable packaging to customers.

New York City generates 14 million tons of trash every year with about 23 billion disposable food service items creating a sizable hunk of trash.

Councilmembers Marjorie Velázquez, Keith Powers, Erik Bottcher and Sandy Nurse were joined by Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine to introduce "Choose to Reuse."

The bill would require corporate-owned, fast-casual restaurants to offer customers reusable food packaging that can be returned, sanitized and reused.

""It's giving the power back to the consumer," Velázquez said. "It's the choice that restaurants would have to give you a reusable container so you can drop off at any site afterwards that is participating so you have a clean, reusable container while saving the environment. It's a win-win for everyone."

Reusable packaging reduces carbon output by about 85% over the product lifetime compared to single-use alternatives.

Businesses like Deliver Zero create reusable containers already used by smaller businesses across the five boroughs.

Founder Lauren Sweeney said big change can happen if big corporations buy into the concept.

""To create maximum impact and address the climate crisis, which is pretty urgent, we need massive change from not just a handful of corporations but all corporations," Sweeney said. "And many of them will not do it unless it's legislated. So this is a very good opportunity for city council to step in and insure that corporations give customers access to the option that creates the best possible future for all of us."

Some restaurants in the city already give patrons the option of reusable packaging like Blue Park Kitchen in Midtown and Raiz in the East Village.

Nick Johnson founded Raiz and quickly adopted Deliver Zero into the restaurant's framework.

He said the response from customers has been positive.

"If everyone did it, there would be so many places you could return it," Johnson said. "It would be amazing. I think the process would work better and it would make me feel better about things going in and out of here, better for the environment."

The Choose to Reuse bill could set the tone for other cities to follow suit if passed.

If the bill is passed restaurants not offering reusable options would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and so on for every new offense.

"New York city can be the leader and set the example," said New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. "We can show other cities how it gets done."

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