Once again, New York City’s restaurant community is faced with the implementation of new legislation that impacts their bottom lines. In an eco-friendly start to the new year, New York City began banning the possession, sale, or use of certain foam products.
As of January 1, 2019, certain foam products will be banned from possession, sale, or use in NYC. This foam ban includes takeout containers, cups, packing peanuts, plates, bowls and trays. According to the NYC Department of Sanitation, “dirty, post-consumer, single-service foam food and beverage containers cannot be recycled in a manner that is economically feasible, environmentally effective, and safe for employees as part of the City’s curbside recycling program,” therefore, as of January 1, stores, restaurants, and mobile food commissaries are banned from using foam products such as takeout clamshells, cups, and plates.
The DSNY’s moratorium on foam use targets “food service establishments, stores, mobile food commissaries and manufacturers.” They may no longer “possess, sell, or offer for use single-service Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam food service articles or loose fill packaging.” Pre-packaged food items imported into the city from pro-styrofoam locales, along with polystyrene packaging for the transport of meats and fish, are
There are some rather interesting exceptions to the new ban. Foam containers that are used for prepackaged food that are sealed up before a restaurant or store receives them are acceptable. The foam containers that store raw meat, pork, fish, seafood, or poultry sold from a butcher case are also considered an exception.
The implementation of the ban was six years in the making. City lawmakers approved the ban in 2013, but a lawsuit from the restaurant industry held it off for years. A judge ruled this past June that it could go forward. City officials say the containers clog up landfills and pose other environmental problems.
The Restaurant Action Alliance, a food industry lobbying group that formed to fight the ban, scored a victory in 2015, the first time the city attempted a polystyrene ouster. A Supreme Court judge thwarted Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia’s proposed total styrofoam ban, on the grounds that Garcia had not sufficiently proved that styrofoam recycling was economically impractical and environmentally untenable. After Garcia undertook a more in-depth analysis, the judge reversed her decision, moving the foam ban forward in June, 2018.
City officials say the containers clog up landfills and pose other environmental problems. “When this goes into a landfill, it takes eons to break down, and when it breaks down it only lets out toxins,” noted New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. “Every single one of these is made out of petroleum and that’s the problem to begin with. To support its position, in 2014, the NYC Sanitation Department said it had collected approximately 28,500 tons of expanded polystyrene, and most of that came in the form of single-use food-service products like cups.
Dozens of communities around the country have enacted some form of plastic foam ban in recent years. New York City joins, Washington, D.C., Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Oakland, and Albany in the banning of foam.
The city has said that nonprofits and small business that bring in less than $500,000 in revenue a year can apply for exemptions if they can prove that buying alternative polystyrene containers and products would significantly harm their finances.
The city is slated to start issuing tickets July 1st. Establishments found in violation of the foam ban will receive fines for each Notice of Violation issued within a 12-month period. One violation will run $250. A second offense is $500, and for a third or more, the fine is $1,000.