Big Apple: So long to foam

Monday, January 7, 2019
Chris Woodward (

NYC no foam containersNew York City's ban on foam cups and food containers continues to provide food for thought.

As of January 1st, businesses are not allowed to possess, sell, or use polystyrene foam takeout containers, cups, plates, bowls and/or trays. Even foam packaging peanuts are banned. The ban is part of an effort to significantly reduce waste in the Big Apple, and supporters of the no-foam movement say the products cannot be recycled.

"Foam cannot be recycled -- plain and simple," says Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in a statement. "It's a problematic material when it's in our waste stream. Foam is a source of neighborhood litter, and it is hazardous to marine life. It's a lightweight material that clogs storm drains and can also end up on our beaches and in our waterways. It's even a contaminant in our recycling and organics programs. I'm thankful we are finally able to move forward with our ban, and I look forward to seeing less foam in our waste stream."

New York City resident Jeff Stier of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) says this is not a worthy ban.

"It's not based in science, and it hurts consumers and small businesses who can least afford it," he explains. "In fact, there was an industry which looked at the cost and said that for every dollar that is spent on food packaging where they use polystyrene, it's going to cost $1.94 for alternative packaging. And that cost is a tax that will be borne either by the businesses or the consumers -- these people going out for lunch during a quick break."

Given that many restaurants are low margin businesses, Stier predicts the cost will be passed down to consumers.


"These products can be either recycled or landfilled," says Stier, who worked for the office of the mayor and in the Corporation Counsel's office in the Giuliani administration. "I know it's unpopular to say landfilled, but there is no shortage of space to landfill these products if the government doesn't want us to recycle them, when they, by the way, are certainly recyclable."

According to The New York Times, the city will not start fining vendors until July 1st. Until then, businesses who still use foam packaging will receive warnings.

Small businesses with less than $500,000 in gross income for the most recent tax year and non-profits may apply for hardship exemptions from the Department of Small Business Services (SBS) "if they can prove that the purchase of alternative products would create a financial hardship."

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