New York may require restaurants to let you bring your own takeout containers

We're swimming in plastic pollution, and the latest attempt to tackle it in New York takes aim at restaurant takeaway containers.

"We've already seen it called the 'doggie bag bill,'" said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Officially called the Right to Refill Act, the legislation was introduced in the state legislature last week and would require restaurants to allow patrons to use their own containers for leftovers and bring their own mugs and water bottles for beverages.

"This is just another inch forward as we try to capture or we try to reduce the use of plastics," Fahy at a said press conference announcing the legislation.

Right now it's not illegal to bring your own container for leftovers, but a restaurant can prohibit it. The law would also require restaurants to post signs notifying customers they can do so.

At Rotisserie Georgette on East 60th Street, generous portions are the norm.

"We sort of think of dinner here as dinner plus a picnic to go, so it's not uncommon for people to take some food home," owner Georgette Farkas said.

While the restaurant already uses recycled cardboard containers for leftovers, Farkas is all for customers bringing their own.

"It saves everyone yet another need for packaging," she said. "How much more packaging do we need? I think it could be quite clever as long as the packaging they bring is clean and hygienic."

That latter point is a potential concern for the larger restaurant industry.

"Our organization is a leading advocate for sustainable practices in the restaurant industry, but this proposal strikes us as a solution in search of a problem," NYC Hospitality Alliance executive director Andrew Rigie said in a statement. "If we want customers to bring their own takeaway food containers to restaurants, then our elected leaders should work with our industry to focus on the more serious food safety issues that will arise."

A similar law took effect in California this summer. It allows customers to bring their own containers for leftovers just as long as those containers pose no health hazards.