Processing Magazine

New York City to implement polystyrene foam ban

June 17, 2013
polystyrene foam
Photo credit: Monkey Business Images Ltd/Valueline/Getty Images/Thinkstock

Following months of debate, New York City lawmakers have moved to introduce a bill banning the sale of polystyrene foam foodservice products, the America Chemistry Council (ACC) has announced.

The ACC claimed that the proposed ban could cost the city and the state almost $100 million annually and would not lead to the intended reduction of solid waste. Critics of the ban also say it will cost thousands of jobs and will have an adverse effect on local businesses. These costs will be passed on to consumers and taxpayers, the ACC said.

The ban, which is supported by the Bloomberg Administration, would have a significant impact on the restaurant industry, polystyrene foam manufacturing plants and businesses that reuse foam, claimed New York City council member Peter Vallone. Instead of introducing a ban, the mayor should be working with the council to develop ways to recycle foam, he added.

Local businesses have organized protests against the ban, while restaurant industry representatives have called a press conference to inform the community of the potential impact of the ban and to ask the city to focus on recycling projects. Rosemary Nunez, who owns a restaurant in Brooklyn, commented that foam containers helped to keep food fresh and were economical. The ban on selling and using such containers is another example of how the Administration overlooks the interests of those who create jobs, she went on.

RELATED: Proposed styrofoam ban sparks opposition in New York

If they are not allowed to use foam containers, local restaurants will have to look for alternatives. However, all of the currently available alternatives are more expensive than polystyrene foam and would further squeeze already tight profit margins, businesses have claimed. Furthermore, restaurant owners are concerned that other materials are not as good at insulating food products, which could potentially add to food waste and solid waste.

Results from a recent study published by MB Public Affairs reveal that for every $1 spent on polystyrene foam food and drink containers, businesses will have to pay almost double, or $1.94, for available alternatives, the ACC said. Mike Durant, New York state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said that manufacturers from the whole state will be affected by the ban as it will reach beyond the New York City boundaries.

Apart from the economic impact, polystyrene foam foodservice also has other advantages over its alternatives, the ACC pointed out. It is lighter and more energy efficient and, while it is not currently recycled in the state of New York, neither are the alternative materials. In California, by contrast, half the population has access to polystyrene recycling, compared to only 15 percent of the population that can recycle paper-based alternatives, new research commissioned by the ACC shows. These facts should highlight the need for putting a foam recycling program in place, so that New York City could join other leading cities that make the most of polystyrene foam by recycling and reusing it, the ACC statement concluded.