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Bill De Blasio to Ban Plastic Foam in New York Restaurants

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested banning restaurants from using plastic foam containers in his final State of the City address back in 2013, and now current Mayor Bill de Blasio is going through with a ban beginning in July of this year.

New York City will move to the forefront of a growing environmental trend by banning food establishments from using plastic foam containers starting this summer, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced Thursday.

“These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City,” said de Blasio in a statement announcing the ban. “We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less.”

The ban will go into effect July 1. Beginning that day, food establishments ? from food carts to Chinese takeout ? will not be allowed to use plastic foam cups or containers. Packing peanuts will also not be allowed to be sold within the city, though peanuts can still be placed within packages that are shipped to New York from elsewhere.

Unlike many other materials, this particular one is not recyclable.

“While much of the waste we produce can be recycled or reused, polystyrene foam is not one of those materials,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “Removing polystyrene from our waste stream is not only good for a greener, more sustainable New York, but also for the communities who are home to landfills receiving the city’s trash.”

Administration officials said the ban will have a grace period, without fines, until January 2016.

Opponents of the ban claim the move is going to increase costs.

Nonprofits and businesses with less than $500,000 in annual revenue could qualify for an exemption from the plastic foam ban, but they would have to prove that using nonfoam materials would create financial hardship.

The Restaurant Action Alliance, a lobbying group, condemned the decision, suggesting that it would increase costs for eateries while saying that the city should instead focus on creating a plan to recycle the material.

“The decision to ban foam food service products, which comprise only 10 percent of polystyrene foam material, will send the remaining 90 percent to landfills at the taxpayers’ expense,” the group said in a statement.

The effort received quite a bit of attention back when Bloomberg first mentioned it.

“If they ban it all, we’ll have to use aluminum storage containers,” said Paul Gopaul, 29, owner of the popular Midtown food truck Faith’s Halal Food. “Definitely we’d have a price change.”

Gopaul estimated he uses 500 plastic foam food containers a week, which he buys in packs of 175 containers that sell for $15 at a Queens supplier. The aluminum containers of equal size run about $5 more per pack, he said.
“Right now it’s a lot of regulations, but if that’s what it takes to keep us out here, then we got to do it,” he said.

The mayor’s proposal is not an original idea. A number of cities on the West Coast have enacted such legislation, including San Francisco. Some states have partial or industry-specific bans of the material’s use. In Maine, for example, bait can’t be sold in polystyrene foam plastic.

In Seattle, the City Council enacted a plastic foam containers ban and the response there has been largely muted.


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