A New Jersey lawmaker has called out fast food restaurants and convenience stores for struggling to comply with a law that has already had a dramatic impact in the state.

In time for Earth Day on Monday, state Sen. John McKeon, D-Essex, sent letters to the state’s 50 largest food-service establishments statewide, demanding they comply with all parts of the single-use plastics ban — with special attention to single-use plastic straws.

“The single-use plastics ban was an ambitious endeavor and has drastically cut down plastic pollution,” McKeon said in a written statement.

“Our largest chain restaurants, convenience stores, and fast-food businesses have a moral and legal obligation to follow the law and skip the straw.”

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NJ single use plastics ban

Single-use plastic straws are not recyclable, do not biodegrade and are consistently one of the most littered items in the environment.

The state's ban on single-use carryout bags began on May 4, 2022.

Clean Ocean Action found during its twice-a-year beach clean-ups that the number of plastic shopping bags, straws and foam takeout containers had dropped by more than 35% from 2021 to 2022.

A sample of straws collected during a sweep of Sandy Hook in 2016 (Clean Ocean Action)

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Roughly 5.5 billion single-use plastic bags and 110 million single-use paper bags were kept out of landfills between May and December of 2022 alone, according to the New Jersey Plastics Advisory Council.

Americans are estimated to use tens of millions of single-use plastic straws daily.

The law still allows for straws to be provided to customers “upon request,” partly to ensure no violation of disability laws.

Approximately eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year, McKeon said in his letter addressed to the CEO of McDonald’s.

He added it has been estimated that by 2050 the mass of plastic pollution in the ocean will exceed the mass of fish.

“Fast food and chain convenience stores talk a big game when it comes to being environmentally conscious,” McKeon continued.

“It is time for these businesses to walk the walk and fully commit to reducing plastic pollution by only providing plastic straws upon request.”

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