On Tuesday, a citywide ban on styrofoam containers went into effect, prohibiting food service establishments, stores and manufacturers from possessing, selling or offering single service Expanded Polystyrene foam food items or packaging.
According to city data, New Yorkers throw away 60 million pounds of styrofoam products each year.
EPS is considered a major source of neighborhood litter, petroleum-based waste and hazardous to marine life such as sea turtles and fish. The lightweight material is known to clog storm drains and frequently ends up on NYC’s beaches and harbors. Styrofoam containers break down into smaller pieces, which marine animals often mistake for food, and which may wound or even kill them.
Brooklyn Councilmember and Public Advocate hopeful Rafael Espinal, who represents the 37th District including East New York, Brownsville and Bushwick, and who has been a staunch advocate for more sustainable legislation to create a greener NYC, welcomes the ban.
“The styrofoam ban that just went into effect is great news for New York,” said Espinal. “More and more, people in our city are growing aware of the impact our choices have on the environment and are opting for reusable alternatives. Our next step should be tackling plastic waste, which not only contributes to climate change but is also polluting our oceans. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to curtail the use of plastic straws.”
As a result of the ban, manufacturers and stores may not sell or offer single-use foam items such as cups, plates, trays or containers. The city is implementing a six-month grace period during which businesses that still use foam products may receive a “warning card,” reminding them of the ban before they will be fined.
Nonprofits and small businesses with less than $500,000 in revenue annually may apply for hardship exemptions from the Department of Small Business Services, if they can prove that the purchase of alternative products not composed of EPS would create undue financial hardship. Waivers granted will be valid for a one-year period beginning July 1, and on a rolling basis.
“Today marks an important step towards our city’s goal of diverting zero waste to landfill by 2030,” said Brooklyn Councilmember Antonio Reynoso who represents the 34th District, including Bushwick and Williamsburg, and who chairs the council’s Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management. “Styrofoam is a prevalent non-recyclable material in our waste stream that has no other potential for a second life other than piling into our landfills. Banning such materials from our city is critical to our future sustainability.”
EPS is already banned in cities across the country, including Washington, DC, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Albany and Seattle. In total, more than 70 cities have banned foam, and businesses have shifted to alternative products that are biodegradable or otherwise recyclable.
For more information on the styrofoam ban, go here.