New York City will implement widespread disposable foam container restrictions starting January 1st, after winning a significant battle against the polystyrene-loving members of the restaurant industry in June. Starting New Year's Day, single-service styrofoam items SUCH AS clamshell containers, cups, plates, bowls, etc., and shipping fillers will be banned across the five boroughs.
"But why???" you are perhaps weeping into your pile of contraband packing peanuts. The short answer: Styrofoam typically can't be recycled and does not biodegrade, but instead, sits around sponging up other chemicals and toxins after humans toss it out. (According to American Disposal Services, styrofoam makes up 30 percent of our national landfill content, due to the fact that people really go HAAM on the packing materials.) And then, in addition to choking our landscape and the critters who inhabit it, styrofoam may leach carcinogens into food and drink when heated.
As of January 1, 2019 certain foam products will be banned from possession, sale, or use in NYC. This includes foam takeout containers, cups, packing peanuts, plates, bowls and trays. Details: https://t.co/S0yLw8JFmK #foambanNYC pic.twitter.com/y1y97WihJw
— NYC zerowaste (@NYCzerowaste) November 18, 2018
Polystyrene does seem pretty bad, and yet it is also cheap, which explains its appeal to many of the city's more-than-40,000 food and bev joints. In 2014, the Sanitation Department said it had collected approximately 28,500 tons of expanded polystyrene, and most of that came in the form of single-use food-service products like cups, the Guardian reports.
The Restaurant Action Alliance, a food industry lobbying group that formed to fight the ban, scored a victory in 2015, the first time the city attempted a polystyrene ouster. A Supreme Court judge thwarted Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia's proposed total styrofoam ban, on the grounds that Garcia had not sufficiently proved that styrofoam recycling was economically impractical and environmentally untenable. After Garcia undertook a more in-depth analysis, the judge reversed her decision, moving the foam ban forward in June.
And now, like Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Oakland, and Albany before it, New York will soon stomp out styrofoam. Mostly, anyway.
The DSNY's moratorium on foam use targets "food service establishments, stores, mobile food commissaries and manufacturers." They may no longer "possess, sell, or offer for use single-service Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam food service articles or loose fill packaging." Pre-packaged food items imported into the city from pro-styrofoam locales, along with polystyrene packaging for the transport of meats and fish, are excepted.
The DSNY says it will welcome certain small businesses to apply for hardship exemptions if they can show that they can't realistically afford permissible options ("aluminum, rigid plastics, uncoated paper, glass, and compostable items"). It has also said that it intends to help businesses with the transition. But private citizens with styrofoam allegiances, take note: Starting January 1st, no foam for you!