Bloomberg Succeeds in Banning Foam Food Containers

Mike Bloomberg is getting in his last hurrah before leaving office at the end of the year: the New York City Council passed his long sought-after ban on foam food containers, though with an environmental caveat.

Bloomberg made it a point to schedule a hearing at the City Council this month on what he perceived to be one of the greatest challenges facing New York City residents today: styrofoam. That meeting took place this week, and according to the New York Times, Bloomberg achieved his goal of enacting city policy that would at least present the promise of a full styrofoam ban.

The bill passed would take effect in 2015 and includes the potential for private corporations, namely the Dart Container Corporation, to challenge the fact that styrofoam is not easily recyclable. If Dart can either create a new kind of the material or prove that the standard foam containers are easily recyclable, the ban won't go into effect. If they cannot, it will. The bill also provides for a year in which the city will entertain scientific research that might prove the material more easily recyclable than previously thought.

The bill also addresses the potential of such a bill significantly hurting small businesses that will now have to restructure their entire budgets based on buying more expensive biodegradable material. It provides for a process in which struggling small businesses and nonprofits can apply for a waiver if they prove too much hardship to comply with the law. It was previously estimated that such a ban could cost the city's businesses about $91.3 million a year.

The result of such legislation is not an outright ban on the foam materials but a compromise in which companies that produce products using the material and other parties have to essentially prove that the foam is not what decades of use have proven it to be to prevent the ban from taking effect. The extra layer of bureaucracy imposed upon struggling businesses in order to continue using the foam material might also have a sort of chilling effect in which those running such struggling businesses simply do not have time or would rather avoid the cumbersome process and end up using the waiver option seldom enough that it becomes essentially negligible. 

The foam ban is one of three major legislative moves the Council made this week in line with Bloomberg's trademark crusades against everyday items that ostensibly hurt the city. The Council expanded New York City's ban on cigarettes to e-cigarettes--battery-operated vaporizing appliances that allegedly make tobacco and nicotine safer to ingest--and passed a bill that would require large restaurants to compost their waste. The Mayor said he would sign all the bills passed this week.

Mayor Bloomberg has spent the past month rushing projects and legislation of all sorts in anticipation of his stepping down from office. In addition to sanitation and environmental bills, the Bloomberg administration pushed through $12 billion in real estate projects--from shopping malls to stadiums to public housing--in the winter months. Bill de Blasio, his successor, is set to take office on January 1, and could potentially undo much of Bloomberg's last-minute work. Whether he will want to, however, is a different story, as de Blasio previously proposed a similar styrofoam ban and has been a vocal advocate for improved public housing.


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