Foam Ban Overturned

September 24, 2015

On September 22, 2015, the New York State Supreme Court overturned a ban on expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) foodservice items in New York City. The ban was initially instituted in accordance with Local Law 142, which called on the city to determine whether there was an economically feasible way to recycle foam and if not, allowed the city to ban the product. Though Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted the all-out ban, it appears that their judgment was misguided. Foam is recyclable, and New York City can now shift its focus to embracing a recycling program that would not only clean up the city, but would generate income. 

“This decision is a victory for the environment and for New York City, which can now become a national leader in recycling by removing every piece of polystyrene from its waste stream—and making money in the process,” stated former City Councilman and head of the Restaurant Action Alliance Robert Jackson. “The judge has ended the debate about polystyrene recycling by making clear it can be recycled and there is a market for it. Now it’s time for the city to capitalize on this development. ”

Polystyrene foam is a valuable product in the recycling industry, as once it’s ground down, cleaned, and densified, it can be used for products ranging from surfboards and picture frames to architectural molding and building infrastructure. When New York City begins recycling foam, the city will benefit from its sale.

Starting up the recycling program should be easy. Dart Container Corporation, a leading manufacturer of polystyrene food service products, has offered to pay the full start-up price for a city-wide recycling program.

“Our offer to pay every dime of the start-up costs for recycling, and to ensure the city can sell its recycled product, stands,” said Michael Westerfield of Dart Container Corporation. “The victory here is for the environment and for recycling. We are eager to work with the city to get recycling started as soon as possible.”

Dart plans to cover the cost of sorting equipment, an expansion of its Indiana recycling facility for New York’s foam, and a five-year guaranteed price for the recovered polystyrene.
The foam ban, put into effect in January, was an easy one for Judge Margaret Chan to overturn. She said that the “one undisputed short answer to whether EPS is recyclable is yes: single serve EPS is recyclable.”

New York’s restaurants and take-out services alike can now rejoice. Foam is already known to be for more economically feasible for small business owners – it is, after all, two to three times less expensive than alternatives. As the city implements a comprehensive recycling plan, they too will reap the economic benefits.