1. Plastic StrawsInk Drop/Shutterstock
Of the millions of tons of plastic products used each year in the United States, plastic straws have perhaps gained the worst reputation as a contributor to waste. And for good reason: Few varieties are recyclable, and their environmental effects are unmistakable, polluting oceans and waterways. Several U.S. cities, including Seattle and Malibu, have banned the use of plastic straws. Starbucks and American Airlines are among the companies announcing their commitment to remove plastic straws from stores within the next few years, replacing them with special no-straw-required lids or straws made from biodegradable materials, given only at the consumer’s request.
2. Styrofoam Cups and ContainersAlina Kholopova/Shutterstock
Early in 2018, popular chains McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts vowed to get rid of their iconic large foam cups, made of polystyrene (better known as Styrofoam). The material frequently pollutes beaches and oceans and can be harmful to wildlife because it breaks down into small pieces that can be ingested. Several cities across the United States have banned or partially banned polystyrene foam cups and containers, replacing them with paper, recyclable, or compostable products, and many are on their way to passing bans.
3. Plastic Bagsbysora/Shutterstock
Restaurants, grocery stores, shops, and other businesses are in the midst of nationwide changes to ban or tax plastic bags. Many urban centers, like Boston and Washington, D.C., are taxing or limiting the use of such bags, while California has enacted laws to make single-use plastic bags illegal. The goal of these laws is to reduce pollution and protect wildlife, who may mistake the bags for food or even become caught in the bags—both potentially life-threatening scenarios.
4. Plastic UtensilsHomeStudio/Shutterstock
Cities like Seattle, which have made moves to ban plastic straws, are also focusing now on stopping the use of single-use plastic utensils. Instead, restaurants, coffee shops, delis, and even food trucks will have to either implement the use of reusable flatware or offer recyclable or compostable options—and they must be sure to clearly mark the proper places to dispose of them so they don’t just end up in the trash anyway.
5. Trans FatsEkaterina_Minaeva/Shutterstock
Trans fats are made when vegetable oil is hydrogenated, making products containing it incredibly unhealthy, contributing to raised cholesterol, heart disease, and even premature death. The New York City area paved the way by banning restaurants from preparing food with trans fats in it, and California later banned it throughout the state. The FDA followed suit by passing a measure to ban the dangerous fat nationwide in 2015. Though it’s a bit early to measure the law’s effect on the nation, researchers in New York found that rates of heart attack and stroke decreased in the counties where the law had taken effect.
6. Cigarettes and E-Cigarettesgraja/Shutterstock
Many of us consider smoking indoors an odious, dated practice, but it was once common among restaurant-goers to enjoy a cigar or cigarette with a meal or drink. In fact, it’s been illegal in many states since the late 1990s and early 2000s, so your dining experience will rarely be interrupted by stray smoke. Some states, however, have still not banned it, including many in the south. The latest measures taken, however, have been to include e-cigarettes and vaping in smoking prohibition laws, which have taken effect in several states and urban centers.