New York City has appealed a judge's ruling that stopped a ban on expanded polystyrene food containers from taking effect.
Supreme Court Judge Margaret Chan had decided in September that the sanitation commissioner hadn't demonstrated that containers made of expanded polystyrene could not be cost-efficiently recycled. But she gave the commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, another chance to do so, which apparently was strongly considered by de Blasio administration officials because they took more than a month to file an appeal.
"This law protects 8 million city residents from environmental harms and its implementation should not be delayed," a Law Department spokesman said.
"We disagree with the ruling, and we are asking a higher court to review the decision regarding the ban on expanded polystyrene," said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. "These products cause real environmental harm and we need to be able to prevent nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from entering our landfills, streets, and waterways. Expanded polystyrene is not recyclable, and we strongly believe that it must be eliminated from the waste stream."
The plastic-foam industry maintains that their products could be collected with plastic and metal recycling, separated by sorting equipment, washed, baled with rigid plastic and melted into reusable pellets. A leading manufacturer of single-use coffee cups and clamshell food boxes, Dart Container Corp., offered to purchase equipment to get the program started and to buy the bales it produced for five years.
The judge found that argument persuasive, as well as Dart's claim that recyclers across the country are paying for used foam containers. But city officials and environmentalists say she was fooled, and even the city's recycling vendor struck out when it called the dozens of companies that Dart claimed would accept foam cups, plates and containers used by New Yorkers. Moreover, they say the temporary nature of Dart's subsidies reflects that such a recycling program would not be sustainable.
Randy Mastro, who represents the plaintiffs trying to stave off the ban, said, "It comes as no surprise that the city would seek to appeal a judge's decision overturning its soft foam food-service item ban as 'arbitrary and capricious,' but we fully expect the city's latest gambit to fail as well. As the trial court recognized, the only rational decision here is for the city to recycle 100 percent of all polystyrene foam products."
Mastro, a former deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration, said the industry's proposed program would recycle all of the city's polystyrene foam waste and generate revenue for the city.
Polystyrene comes in several forms; expanded polystyrene is what people colloquially call Styrofoam, while other forms of polystyrene are used in rigid plastics that the city does collect in its curbside recycling program.
Not all of the rigid plastics collected are recyclable, though, and neither are some of the products used in lieu of plastic-foam containers. However, environmentalists say the alternatives have less impact on the environment both in the manufacturing and post-consumer stages.