As New York City prepares to institute a citywide ban on expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam packaging, a proposed law to recognize EPS as a recyclable has been introduced before City Council. The bill, Intro 1490-2017, will enable NYC residents to include foam in the same recycling bin as their metal, glass, and plastic.
The Mayor’s office would like to ban foam, however, banning this everyday product is not economically feasible for NYC’s restaurant and small business owners. Polystyrene foam—often incorrectly called Styrofoam, a registered trademark of Dow Chemical Company—is most often used to make cups, plates, lids, takeout containers, and other common foodservice items. Many restaurant and business owners prefer polystyrene because it is more durable and costs less than alternatives. Switching to more expensive products would force these businesses to either increase prices, or eat the sunken costs.
Saying that polystyrene foam is unrecyclable is also problematic, as it’s simply untrue. Foam can be, and is recycled in some cities and communities across the country. Properly recycled EPS can be used to make products like picture frames, garden nursery trays, crown molding, and rulers.
Recycling foam also offers many environmental benefits, as it saves valuable landfill space, prevents pollution, protects the Earth’s atmosphere, and decreases our dependency on virgin resources.
Focusing on recycling, rather than banning a reliable and effective product is a smarter plan for New York City. Otherwise, it will be restaurants and small business owners who will suffer.