Even though several New York City business owners and local leaders recently gathered to express their concerns over a proposed polystyrene foam ban, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration took the matter to a vote and gathered the necessary votes to pass the law. The ban, which was originally introduced in February 2013, means that New York City restaurants and small businesses may be forced to discontinue the use of foam take-out containers and cups. Polystyrene foam, which is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, is used to make many of the take-away containers that most consumers prefer because of its convenience and ability to keep foods hot or cold.
Restaurateurs and small business owners used a November 25 public hearing on this matter to explain the effects the foam ban will have on their bottom line. For many, including Jimmy Moncion, owner of Nelson Paella Restaurant, using polystyrene foam is not only convenient, but also necessary to keep their restaurants doors open. According to Moncion, “Polystyrene foam is the best option for my business because it keeps my food fresh and at the same time, it allows me to charge a fair price. The cheapest alternative is much more expensive than polystyrene foam — plus, they don’t work as well for my customers. If this ban goes through, it will mean cutting workers so that I can keep my doors open.”1
Although the initial ban on foam has passed, there is an opportunity to work towards implementing an alternative solution that would allow NYC businesses to continue using their preferred foodservice items. Michigan-based Dart Container is currently developing a plan to collect discarded foam waste directly from NYC residents and businesses, have the product cleaned, and then recycle the material so that it is available for manufacturers to use in the production of brand new consumer goods, such as crown molding and picture frames.2 Dart will work with other city-commissioned agencies towards a deadline of January 1, 2015, to developed this aggressive foam recycling plan that should be a viable option from both an economic and environmental perspective.2 Dart currently provides this program to several other cities throughout the U.S. in order to reduce overall landfill waste and create new opportunities for economic growth.