Restaurant owners petition to reverse New York's foam foodservice products ban

Petition presented to Mayor de Blasio.

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July 21, 2015
Recycling Today Staff
Legislation & Regulations Plastics

The New York Restaurant Action Alliance (RAA) says more than 1,000 small business owners from New York City’s five boroughs have signed a petition demanding Mayor Bill de Blasio reverse his foam foodservice products ban. Restaurants and bodegas say they consider the ban, which went into effect on July 1, 2015, but will not be enforced until January 2016, a serious threat. Those who signed the petition say the mayor defied his own campaign promise to strengthen the city’s small business infrastructure by enforcing the ban.

A lawsuit brought against de Blasio, Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and the Department of Sanitation challenging the legality of the decision to ban foam has been submitted for deliberation. According to the RAA, arecent decision by the court denied the Natural Resources Defense Council a stake in the lawsuit, stating the group had “neither a claim nor a defense” relevant to the question at hand: whether the city’s ban on foam was arbitrary and capricious in light of evidence that foam can be recycled instead.

RAA leader and former city council member Robert Jackson says, “The Restaurant Action Alliance believes steadfastly that the city’s decision to ban foam was based not on evidence or fact but on fulfilling political agendas. Foam is 100 percent recyclable, and there is a robust national market for recycling the takeout cups and containers tens of thousands of New Yorkers use every day. Denying foam’s recyclability is like denying the sky is blue; it just doesn’t make sense.”

The RAA says the ban on foam takeout cups and containers will hit small restaurant owners disproportionately. Noting the high price of foam alternatives, some owners estimate their costs will more than double, forcing them to lay off employees, raise prices or close, the group says.

“Adding insult to injury,” the RAA states in a news release, “the city chose to ban only 20 percent of the city’s polystyrene and landfill the remaining 80 percent, even though the city had an offer to recycle 100 percent. The same offer would have generated revenue and reduced landfill costs.  All at no cost to the city.”

The RAA says other large U.S. cities, such as Denver, have established successful foam recycling programs. In mid-July Denver residents and commercial companies could include polystyrene foam foodservice packaging, egg cartons, meat trays and protective packaging in their recycling bins. The expansion of the recycling program was funded by a $45,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition, a program of the Foodservice Packaging Institute.

Oral arguments in lawsuit are expected in the coming weeks, RAA says, with a final decision coming later this year.