New York City Moves to Ban Foam Containers Used in Foodservice

Dart Container offers to collect polystyrene foam for recycling.

December 3, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Plastics
A group of local restaurant owners, business leaders and others in New York City have spoken out against a bill to ban the sale of polystyrene (PS) foam in the foodservice sector. 
The bill, which was introduced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this year, has run into opposition from a number of groups, including businesses, unions, community leaders and taxpayers, because of its cost to restaurant owners. Opponents also say the ban would be ineffective at reducing solid waste.
“This bill will have serious implications not only for New York City small businesses but [also] upstate New York manufacturers,” says Mike Durant, New York State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Product bans imposed absent solid scientific backing like this are threatening the viability of small businesses within the city and across New York. The very fact that New York City is looking to threaten thousands of jobs and small businesses is alarming.”
More than 2,000 small businesses in the city have written to their city council representatives to express disapproval of the ban and explain how purchasing more expensive alternatives would hurt their businesses. 
Along with companies involved in the food service industry, a large manufacturer of plastic foam products, Dart Container, has been working aggressively to halt the ban of polystyrene.
“Dart has been working diligently for months on a plan for foam polystyrene recycling in New York City,” says Michael Westerfield, a spokesman for Dart Container Corp. “We've offered to commit significant resources for a comprehensive recycling program. Cities across the country recycle polystyrene, and there is no reason why New York City can’t launch a similar initiative. We urge the city council to support T2013-7195, which will include foam polystyrene in the residential recycling program.”
In support of its call to develop a recycling program for the material, Dart says it has tested foam PS from the city's residential recycling program and has determined it can be recycled.
Further, the company has partnered with Plastic Recycling Inc. (PRI) on a recycling program that will wash and recycle dirty, food-contaminated PS material from NYC’s residential recycling program.
In addition to foodservice foam, Dart says its PS recycling program also can recycle egg cartons, ice chests and protective packaging foam, which will save the city money and even possibly generate revenue through the sale of the collected PS.
Dart says it could save New York City more than $2 million per year in landfill costs by recycling PS foam. Plus, given the $160 per ton that it will pay for the material, Dart says the result would be more than $4 million in revenue for the city, a net change of more than $6 million to dispose of the material.
Dart says it has offered the company that receives the material from the city’s residential recycling program with a contract that guarantees a buyer for five years. If Dart does not renew the contract after year five, under the contract Dart will pay a substantial penalty for three more years. The contract also guarantees a price of $160 per ton for five years and has included an escalator clause after the fifth year to account for inflation, according to Dart. 
Dart also has offered to pay at least $500,000 to improve the recycling infrastructure at the facility that sorts the city’s recyclables.