Mayor Bloomberg Pushes for Ban on Styrofoam Cups

New York City elected Bill De Blasio as their new mayor earlier
this month, but Bloomberg still has some time in office. Before he
goes out, he wants to push a final, significant piece of
legislation into law:
banning plastic foam
 cups and plates. 

Bloomberg has supported the ban

since it was introduced
by Brooklyn Councilman Lewis
Fidler this summer. Now, at Bloomberg’s request, the City
Council’s Sanitation Committee will hold a hearing Monday to
discuss the bill.

Bloomberg has said the ban is a no-brainer for environmental
reasons. According to the
New York Post
, Bloomberg spokesman Jake Goldman said,
When polystyrene foam is used for food service it becomes a
devastating pollutant that infects our parks and waterways while
never biodegrading and has been classified a carcinogenic health
hazard by the National Institute of Health.”

The Post also reports that plastic foam food
containers add 23,000 tons of trash a year to landfills.

Although Mr. Bloomberg is notorious
for his Nanny State tendencies, the plastic foam bill is not as
unprecedented as, say, the large soda ban. Many cities, including

Los Angeles
, have banned the substance.

However, the bill’s opponents argue that the ban will be
extremely costly for small businesses. The American Chemistry
Council reports that replacing polystyrene cups and trays with the
cheapest alternative will cost New Yorkers $91.3 million
per year. MB Public Affairs found that for every $1 spent on
polystyrene foam goods, businesses 
will have to spend $1.94
on alternative replacements,
effectively doubling costs. Their report finds that “this 94% is in
effect an “environmental tax” far higher than any current sales tax
or import duty rates affecting the cost of consumer products.” And
given that most large chains in the city have
already stopped
using polystyrene, small businesses will be hit
especially hard.  

Additionally, some trade groups and politicians have noted
alternative approaches to reducing environmental harm. In
California, 65 cities
with a total population of around 8
(similar to New York City’s) have polystyrene recycling
centers. New York City’s recycling centers currently reject the
material, citing prohibitively high costs.

Forbes’ Jeff Stier
of Seattle’s problems with their polystyrene ban:

In coffee-loving Seattle, where styrofoam cups are already
banned, they’ve been having a hard time recycling their allegedly
green paper cups, according
to The Seattle Times

They’ve found that mills don’t want recycled coffee cups because
the process takes longer, making cups more expensive to process
than items like recycled cardboard boxes. And facilities that do
accept the “mixed paper” that paper coffee cups and other food
service items contribute to, only use it in a 1:10 ratio
with higher-quality fibers. So there’s not much of a market for it,
at least in the U.S.

Even if Bloomberg doesn’t manage to get the ban passed, his
successor may try. On his campaign website, De Blasio pledges
to end government use of plastic foam. 

from Hit & Run

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