NYC Approves Ban on Styrofoam Containers

NYC Ban on Styrofoam Containers to Go Into Effect in 2015

Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg may not have been successful in his bid to limit sugary soft drink sales in Manhattan, but his initiative to ban Styrofoam food containers and packing peanuts was approved last week.

The new ban goes into effect July 1, 2015, bringing New York City in line with San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C., which all have similar Styrofoam bans. It bans cups, clamshell food containers and packing peanuts, but still allows the sale of foam egg cartons and materials used for packing fragile electronics. The ban will eliminate approximately 90 percent of all foam products in the city.

“Environmentalists noted that the lightweight plastic foam, known as expanded polystyrene, breaks easily, clogging waterways and posing a threat to marine life,” the Wall Street Journal reports. A Styrofoam coffee cup which is only used for a few minutes, “can take decades to degrade—if not longer, lingering in landfills. In processing facilities, the dirty food containers are difficult to clean,” and the recycling market for foam containers is not nearly as developed as those for plastic and aluminum.

New York officials actually conducted a year-long analysis on the recycling possibilities for foam products, concluding there was no viable option even though Dart Container Corp., which is the largest foam cup manufacturer in the world, negotiated with the city in efforts to prevent the ban. “It did not make environmental sense to try and separate [foam] out because there’s no place to sell it,” sanitation department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said in the Journal.

“This is an important and encouraging step,” Eric Goldstein, New York City environment director for the Natural Resources Defense Council told the Journal. “There’s a growing recognition that they cause disproportionate environmental and pollution problems and there are readily available substitutes. And so why not make the change?”

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Image: David Goehring