New NYC law bans takeout joints from providing plastic utensils unless requested

Take-out food devotees who want plastic utensils and other freebies with their order-in meals will soon have to request them under a new law Mayor Adams approved on Wednesday.

The so-called “Skip the Stuff” law, which was sponsored by Bronx Councilwoman Marjorie Velázquez, prohibits restaurants and any other businesses that deliver food from providing utensils, condiment packets, napkins or extra food containers unless those items are specifically requested when an order is made.

The aim is to reduce unnecessary plastic waste, and the law’s main provisions are set to go into effect in six months.

“Our goal is to constantly look at how do we to remove trash from our environment, and this is a brilliant way to do so,” Adams said in City Hall just minutes before signing the Council-approved bill into law. “This bill makes our city cleaner, more sustainable and waste free.”

In addition to restaurants that run their own delivery operations, the new law covers apps such as Grubhub and Uber Eats that make food deliveries on behalf of restaurants and also makes them subject to the same fines take-out joints could be slapped with in the event of a violation.

Under the law, app-based take-out delivery services are required to provide an option for customers to request utensils, condiments, napkins and additional containers to eat from. The default option must be that none of those items are provided unless requested.

A first-time violation carries a potential fine of $100, with subsequent violations subject to $200 and $300 tickets. But the law also offers a grace period for violations that occur before July 1 of this year.

How much of an impact it will have remains unclear, and advocates for a cleaner environment have described the challenge in daunting terms.

But Velázquez and Eric Goldstein, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Wednesday that the law is a step in the right direction.

“According to the Sanitation Department, more than 20,000 tons a year of unused, unwanted plastic foodware is discarded every year. Much of it goes to landfills and incinerators, which are environmentally troublesome,” Goldstein said. “The ‘Skip the Stuff’ legislation is an answer to that problem.”