While the New York foam ban officially went into effect on July 1st, a New York court is still in the process of ruling on whether the ban is the most suitable and effective way to handle the city’s foam output. The court has the authority to readdress the city’s pseudo-environmentally sound polystyrene foam ban and instead shape the city into a leader in PS foam recycling and environmental stewardship.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has been quoted as saying that New York is not a home for foam. His statement, however, hides the reality that New York has a large expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam output. It is estimated that every year New York produces over 25,000 tons of EPS foam. The ban that is currently in place only covers foam used in the foodservice industry, and this industry only accounts for a small portion of the over 25,000 tons of the city’s foam output. The ban, therefore, is only disruptive to the local foodservice industry and restaurants owners who are now scrambling to find affordable and sustainable alternatives.
A large majority of the 25,000 tons of PS foam still has nowhere to go, besides into landfills and the Hudson River as litter. In order to effectively handle the city’s entire foam output, the court’s ruling should direct the city to focus on implementing a foam recycling program. Other cities, such as Denver, Colorado, have created foam recycling programs and have seen great returns. It would be a feasible and effective solution to handle all of the city’s foam output, and the cost of the program could be covered by the sale of the recycled product. The city’s investment in a foam recycling program would be a positive course of action for the city, for the citizens of New York, and for the environment.
The court’s ruling has the power to redirect the city’s foam from landfills to recycling bins full of foam and can ignite a powerful dialogue about recycling EPS foam as well as other products. The court should not fall into the trap that the City Council created when council members ignored the fact that foam #6 is recyclable, and passed the foam ban in January 2015. New York City needs to take responsibility for its 25,000 tons of foam #6 and create a new home for foam.