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NY Mayor Bloomberg to propose ban on polystyrene foam packaging

By: Frank Esposito

February 14, 2013

NEW YORK -- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will call for a city-wide ban on expanded polystyrene foam packaging from stores and restaurants in his Feb. 14 State of the City address.

In an excerpt released before the speech, Bloomberg describes polystyrene foam as "one product that is virtually impossible to recycle and (that) never bio-degrades."

He further described the EPS product as "something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health…and is something that should go the way of lead paint."

"We can live without it," Bloomberg said. "We may live longer without it. And the doggie bag will survive just fine."

Steve Russell, vice president of the American Chemistry Council trade group in Washington, responded to Bloomberg's statements by saying that ACC "would welcome the opportunity to explore polystyrene foam food service recycling with the city."

"The technology exists to recycle polystyrene foam food service right now," Russell said in a Feb. 13 news release. "California is making this work – 22 percent of households there can recycle polystyrene foam food service cups…clamshells and other containers at curbside."

The California program covers 8 million people, according to Russell. NYC's 2011 population was estimated at 8.2 million.

Russell added that PS foam food service products make up less than one percent of solid waste in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Those products use significantly less energy and water to manufacture that paper alternatives and create significantly less waste by weight and comparable waste by volume, he said.

In a Feb. 14 phone interview, ACC plastics markets managing director Keith Christman said that New York’s City Council previously has considered a PS foam food service ban, but ultimately rejected it, partly because replacing EPS food service products with alternatives would cost the city an additional $7 million per year.

He also pointed out that an item on the city’s own Department of Sanitation website states that PS foam accounts for only 0.5 percent of the city’s waste.

“The facts strongly support continued use of polystyrene food service,” Christman said. “We support expanded recycling and would like to work with the city.”