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Dart pushing for PS recycling in New York City

By: Jeremy Carroll

November 25, 2013

Dart Container Corp. pushed for an alternative for the proposed polystyrene ban in New York City during a City Council committee hearing.

The committee on sanitation and solid waste management held a seven hour hearing Nov. 25, discussing a possible food service ban for PS or an alternative to start a curbside recycling program. Under the original proposal, the ban would take effect July 1, 2015, but could be halted if the city’s deputy sanitation commissioner determines a recycling alternative is possible.

It’s that recycling alternative that Dart pushed for during the hearing and since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his intention to ban PS during a State of the City address earlier this year.

Michael Westerfield, Dart’s corporate director of recycling programs, said a test-run with the city’s recycler Sims Metal Management showed the optical sorter could separate PS.

“We’re confident that our program will work and we know that because we’ve partnered with other communities in doing this,” he said.

Dart says it is willing to pay the additional costs for equipment to sort the material, and said the PS would be shipped via rail to a not-yet-built facility to be washed. Ultimately, Westerfield said, Plastic Recycling Inc. would pay $160 per ton for the material in a contract already worked out for five years.

Under the system, the PS would be collected at the curb and commingled with other plastics, paper and aluminum.

“You would still have the right to ban foam,” Westerfield said. “No one would take that way from you.”

But city officials said PS simply can’t be recycled in New York City currently and now is the time to act.

“Dart has been given every opportunity to validate their recyclability and they have failed,” said Cas Holloway, deputy mayor for operations. “They have a map [on their website] where they have set up locations to take polystyrene and recycling it. There is nothing in New York state. They’ve done nothing. And it’s only when the possibility of a prohibition has been in place that they come out.”

He said investing in the infrastructure needed to make PS foam truly recyclable in New York City does not make fiscal sense.

“That’s why Dart has not invested in even a single recycling facility in New York City in the 25 years that we have had a recycling program, and why they have not made a realistic proposal to make EPS foam recyclable here now,” he said.

Holloway said city research showed that 84 percent of chain restaurants in the city do not use PS, and both McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts are moving away from PS completely. Alternatives to PS would not be cost-prohibitive, he said, with some alternatives costing approximately 2 cents more per container.

Holloway and Ron Gonen, the city’s deputy sanitation commissioner, all pointed to Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle as locations where bans have gone into effect, saying bans have not had a negative impact on the restaurant industry there.

There were school children and environmentalists supporting the ban, along with restaurant owners speaking out against it. And like the crowd, the members of the City Council were split on the issue, some pushing for a recycling measure and some pushing for the ban.

Lewis Fidler, the council member who sponsored the PS ban, said it’s been a long since he’s seen a lobbying campaign as strong the one against the ban.

“When man leaves this Earth, there will be two things left: cockroaches and Styrofoam,” he said. “If McDonald’s can see it. If Dunkin Donuts can see it. If Albany County [who recently passed a PS ban] can see it, we can see it.”

But Brad Braddon, president of Commodore Plastics LLC, a Bloomfield, N.Y.-based manufacturer of foam trays, defended PS.

“I love this material,” he said holding up a tray. “And I’m surprised that environmentalists don’t love it because it’s less. It’s less materials.

“Foam used in the United States is made in the United States. I don’t know why you would want to ban it,” Braddon said.

Bloomberg is pushing for the ban to be enacted before he leaves office on Dec. 31.