Walk around anywhere — a park, a downtown, a bike path — and you'll likely see a plastic bottle or two tossed away. New York state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy wants to take steps toward reducing that waste, part of a broader push in recent years to curtail plastic junk on streets and sidewalks.
Fahy, along with state Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, want to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles at state parks around New York.
"We're overdue for doing more on recycling, right, and water bottles. We are still, despite all the efforts with recycling, with selling reusable water bottles, we're still selling 70 billion single-use water bottles, just in the U.S. alone," Fahy said. "So if we start with at least our parks, it's not that our parks are flooded in littered with water bottles, but it's a reminder to people keep our parks clean. Let's keep our streets clean."
But how feasible is something like that, given the constraints on bringing a glass bottle to a beach or a concert on the grounds of a state park? Fahy acknowledges there would be a phase-in if the bill become law and pointed to other proposals that would expand water stations to refill multi-use bottles.
"We had the right to refill bill a year or two ago and we need to make sure that we have refill stations," she said. "We need to make sure that we have water stations and we're giving this a few years to be implemented, but we've got to start with the reminder."
Fahy's bill was proposed more than a year after New York officials moved to ban plastic bags at supermarkets and retail outlets.
"In plastic bags, we thought, you know, the sky was going to fall, some folks were saying. It took years of work to get plastic bags banned in New York," she said. "Now it's just most people are very accustomed to it and we've made tremendous progress, though a little work remains, but we've made progress."
If a big state like New York moves to ban single-use plastic water bottles for sale at state parks, it could be part of a national trend.
"There's this part of the national effort to really try to at least start with parks," Fahy said. "We thought we'd be much further along on single use water plastic water bottles and plastic juice bottles and what have you. COVID is sent us backwards on many of these issues."