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New York City is cracking down on plastic bottles

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order to eliminate plastic bottles from city agencies and properties

USA - Technology - Wired NextFest Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order yesterday banning the sale of single-use plastic beverage bottles on city-owned and -leased properties — which means the bottles could vanish from an area nearly equivalent to a quarter of the city. The move also bars city agencies from purchasing or selling beverages packaged in single-use plastic containers.

The move would eliminate at least 1 million single-use plastic beverage bottles that the city buys each year, according to the executive order. It could also have wider-ranging effects since the city owns or leases over 17,000 properties spread over an area about twice the size of Manhattan (roughly 43,000 acres). That includes city parks — and, by extension, The Trump Organization’s two skating rinks in Central Park and golf course in Ferry Point Park in the Bronx.

“Take that Trump,” city councilman Ben Kallos tells The Verge. Kallos introduced two bills in 2018 that would stop the city from selling single-use plastic bottles on city property. He’s still pushing for the city council to pass legislation to codify the ban into law, in case another mayor down the line tries to undo de Blasio’s executive order.

“We can change what normal is and get to a more sustainable future,” Kallos says. “We don’t have a choice because there is a climate emergency and we can show Trump the right way to do it.”

In 2017, Donald Trump ended restrictions on bottled water sales in US National Parks that had been in place since 2011. He’s also rolled back dozens of environmental protections since taking office. The Verge reached out to The Trump Organization’s golf course and ice rinks in Manhattan and did not receive a response by time of publication.

The new ban in New York City would go into effect by January 1st, 2021. It applies to bottles 21 fluid ounces or less, and some exceptions would be made “where reusable options are infeasible,” according to the executive order. It’s also important to note that New York City tap water is considered safe to drink, which makes the transition to reusable containers more feasible than in places like Flint, Michigan, where tap water has made residents sick.

New York City would likely become the first municipality to limit plastic bottle sales for not just water, but all beverages. San Francisco decided in 2014 to stop selling bottled water on city property and expanded that policy to San Francisco International Airport last year. Concord, Massachusetts, passed a city ordinance in 2012 ending the sale of bottled water anywhere in the town.

Plastic pollution is covering the planet, making its way into the bellies of sea life and exacerbating the climate crisis because it’s made with fossil fuels. Less than 10 percent of all plastics that have been thrown away have actually been recycled.

“They are hurting the earth,” de Blasio said as he signed the executive order yesterday. “We don’t need them. Time to get rid of them.”