Creative Alternatives Introduced in NYC Foam Ban Discussion

New York City Councilmembers and community leaders are weighing in on the polystyrene foam ban that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration proposed earlier this year.  The ban, which would mean that New York City restaurants and eateries would not be allowed to use convenient foam take-out containers and cups, has come under much scrutiny as it has been considered an ill-advised solution to reducing the amount of trash residents send to area landfills each year. Because of this, many NYC leaders are pursuing alternative solutions to the ban. Polystyrene foam is often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company.

If the proposed ban were to come to a vote and pass, small businesses within the city would be forced to pay higher prices for their daily single-use foodservice products.  Many say this economic burden could be avoided if the city council were to consider implementing a foam recycling program. Michigan-based Dart Container Corporation works with several municipalities throughout the U.S. to do just this, and has offered to partner with New York City’s contracted plastics-and-metal vendor, Sims Metal Management, to implement a new recycling program. With Sims’s help, Dart would be able to collect, sort and recycle discarded foam in order to remove it from the NYC waste stream altogether.  Councilman Robert Jackson supports this idea, stating: “Here’s a company [Dart] saying, ‘We will recycle it… It will get it out of the waste stream, and the city will earn several million dollars.’ Hello? That sounds like a great win to me for the city of New York.”

Beyond this program being a viable environmental response to the city’s need to reduce its landfill waste, it would also provide new economic development. Because of the need for the polystyrene foam waste to be cleaned prior to being processed for recycling, Dart has offered to clean the waste and then purchase the readied material for $160 per ton for the next five years. Currently, New York City is shelling out nearly twice that amount of its own funds in order to send the material to landfills. This program would turn a $2 million city expense into a $4 million revenue stream. Resource Recycling Magazine deems this program the largest ever attempted in the U.S. Dart is confident in its ability to deliver on their promise. Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling programs for Dart, understands the need for Dart to be successful with this program, stating: “If this fails, you know what it does to us as a company? It kills us.”

Source: Plastics News

Foam Bans