New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Dec. 17 proposed a ban on expanded polystyrene food containers and loose fill EPS foam packing peanuts, following his administration's push last year to ban plastic bags.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said the EPS proposal will be part of his 2020 State of the State agenda, and would also direct New York's Department of Environmental Conservation to look at restrictions or bans on other packaging materials.
"Styrofoam is one of the most common pollutants and a public health hazard that impacts humans and the environment alike," Cuomo said in a statement. "From take-out containers to packing peanuts, this material is everywhere and it will continue to pollute our waters and harm our wildlife for generations to come if we do not act."
Cuomo said the proposal would ban EPS food containers from prepared foods or beverages served by restaurants, caterers, food trucks, retail food stores, delis and groceries, but would not ban EPS from prepackaged food sealed before it arrives at the foodservice establishments. Penalties will start at $250 and rise to $2,000.
Cuomo wants the ban to take effect Jan. 1, 2022, and said it would be the strongest statewide EPS ban in the United States.
In a statement, his office called EPS foam one of the top 10 contributors to environmental litter, and said the containers often break down and get into the environment as microplastics. Last year, New York City began enforcing its own ban on single-use EPS containers, and also in 2018, Maine became the first state to adopt an EPS food packaging ban.
The New York State Restaurant Association urged Cuomo to put a hardship proposal for restaurants of a certain size, similar to New York City's ban, and said that while it supported "sensible" measures to protect the environment, it didn't want more regulatory burdens on restaurants, according to the Buffalo News.
The New York Public Interest Research Group praised Cuomo's plan and urged the state government to reduce or eliminate additional single-use plastics.
Cuomo said he wanted to build on the state's decision last year to pass a plastic bag ban, which takes effect in March. At the time it was the second state to ban plastic bags, but eight states have such bans in place now.