In an economic and environmental defeat for small business owners and New York City taxpayers, Mayor de Blasio and Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia announced today that they would implement a city-wide ban on polystyrene foam foodservice containers, refusing an offer that would have recycled 100% of the City’s foam and rigid polystyrene.
The decision to ban foam foodservice products, which comprise only 10% of polystyrene foam material, will send the remaining 90% to landfills at the taxpayers’ expense. Commissioner Garcia cowed to “politics as usual” and advised the Mayor to implement a ban on foam cups and take-out containers. The ban was hastily pushed through the City Council at the tail end of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure in 2013.
Cecilio Rodriguez, owner of El Salvador Restaurant in Brooklyn, said, “This is a shocking decision for us to come to grips with. It’s hard enough to make ends meet and now we’re facing added overhead costs as we come into the New Year. To turn down a recycling program like this, that is good for small businesses and the environment, shows that the City doesn’t care about small businesses and working families like me.”
In the year since the ban was first introduced, foam manufacturers like Dart Container Corporation were given an opportunity to prove that foam foodservice items could be economically and logistically recycled within the City’s five boroughs. Dart conducted real world tests that unequivocally proved this feasibility and went even further by offering to recycle the city’s #6 rigid plastics, which are currently all being dumped into overburdened landfills. Commissioner Garcia acknowledged that foam can be collected in NYC’s existing residential recycling program but nevertheless chose landfilling over recycling.
Dart’s Michael Westerfield said, “The offer we made was a win for taxpayers, small businesses, and the environment. As a result of the Commissioner’s decision, taxpayers will continue to pay to landfill foam and solid polystyrene. It also prevents these recyclable materials from being used in the manufacture of new products. As we have repeatedly demonstrated to the Commissioner, there is a strong, existing market for recycled polystyrene.”
The Coalition to Put a Lid on It NYC expressed deep disappointment in Commissioner Garcia, who has claimed to be forward-thinking on the topic of recycling and environmental activism. Coalition leaders noted that the proposal would save millions of dollars for city businesses and – more importantly – make New York City the largest city in the country to have a comprehensive recycling program for expanded polystyrene and #6 rigid plastics. Mr. Rodriguez added, “For a city that’s known to be a leader, I just don’t get why the City rejected such an environmentally progressive recycling option.”
Despite the setback, Dart and the Coalition to Put a Lid on It NYC will continue to attempt to engage the Department of Sanitation and Commissioner Garcia in talks to advance the City’s recycling program.