Protests Mount over NYC’s Proposed Foam Ban

New York City lawmakers have announced a bill that will prohibit the sale of polystyrene foam foodservice products, a movement first introduced by the Bloomberg Administration; however, many city leaders have come forward opposing the foam ban. The proposal has the potential to have a negative effect on thousands of small business owners within the city as well as millions of local taxpayers.  Banning polystyrene foam, which is often referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, would mean a ban on the takeout containers and foam cups used daily by New York City restaurants and eateries.

The ban on polystyrene foam was originally proposed to reduce the amount of waste sent to area landfills; however, such a measure would do very little to reduce solid waste and could cost the state nearly $100 million per year. [i] City Council Member Peter Vallone has been very vocal on the proposal: “A ban in New York City would cost businesses, consumers and taxpayers millions of dollars, as well as threaten jobs in the restaurant industry, in upstate manufacturing plants, and in companies that reuse foam in the greater metropolitan area. Foam can and should be recycled, and I urge the Mayor to work with the Council to explore this option instead of a ban.” [i]

If the bill supporting the foam ban were to pass, New York City restaurants would have to purchase a less effective yet more expensive alternative foodservice item. Restaurants and eateries currently using polystyrene foam containers are generally paying around $1.00 per carton. A carton of the lowest priced alternative to foam would cost about $1.94, essentially doubling the amount currently spent on these containers. [i] Beyond the increased costs to restaurateurs, this ban also puts many manufacturing and polystyrene jobs within the state in jeopardy. The research firm MB Public Affairs estimates that nearly 1,200 polystyrene jobs are at risk. [ii] New York Senator Michael Nozzolio comments, “[This] ban in New York City would have an immediate and dire effect on the in-state businesses that supply New York City restaurants and food service establishments with these containers. [It] will destroy jobs and do nothing to reduce waste.”  The ban will also impact the bottom line of the New York City restaurant industry itself, which employs more than 137,000 New Yorkers. [ii]

One solution many city leaders are supporting that would allow small businesses to continue using foam products and yet still give city officials the opportunity to eliminate it from area landfills is to provide a way to recycle foam.  Dart Container Corporation is an organization providing this capability to other cities and organizations throughout the US. Dart uses cutting edge technology to compress foam waste to a fraction of its original size, making the foam usable for manufacturers who incorporate this discarded material into the production of new consumer goods. This technique removes polystyrene foam waste from landfills as well as reintroduces a product back into the consumer market. This process creates a positive environmental outcome, and also develops new economic opportunities.

[i] MarketWatch

[ii] PR Newswire

Foam Bans