As reported in DNAinfo, Deputy Commissioner for Recycling and Sustainability Ron Gonen recently called for legislation to ban all food service Styrofoam containers and packaging in New York City. He emphasized that the impetus would not be on the consumer, but on businesses and restaurants that buy extended polystyrene — the technical name for Styrofoam, which is trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company. Gonen cited the disposal costs to the city, and the damage that the non-biodegradable material contributes to the environment, as reasons for implementing the ban.
“In 1986, the EPA identified 57 chemical byproducts that were released into the air through its production and many of the pollutants are known to cause serious health effects such as the reduced functioning of the lungs and nervous systems. Every year Americans waste enough polystyrene that it could circle the Earth 426 times” says the Environmental Protection Agency.
The proposed ban is part of a larger report on ways to increase the city’s recycling rate from 15% to 30% by 2017. The city is looking into other ways to decrease the amount of trash sent to the landfill, which costs an average of $86 per ton (to the tune of 2 million tons of garbage a year, or $172 billion annually). NYC earns around $10- 14 per ton of recycled paper, plastic or glass (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/07/styrofoam-cup-container-ban-new-york-city_n_2637670.html?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=Green).
This is not the first time a Styrofoam ban has been proposed. In 2009, the City Council sponsored legislation to give tax incentives to food services to switch to more environmentally friendly materials; in that case, the resolution did not make it out of committee.
Over one hundred other cities have already banned Styrofoam, including Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Similar steps have been proposed for plastic bags, which have been banned in San Francisco for several years.