New York City is known for take-out so we can expect a heated debate over the foam food container ban proposed by Mayor Bloomberg earlier this year.
On Monday, lawmakers debated the virtues and evils of the inexpensive containers that are a staple at most restaurants and street carts in the city.
New York is not the only city to take on the environmentally unfriendly items. San Francisco is one of many other places in the country that have banned foam food containers.
The City Council is looking at all its options, including possibly banning the foam containers after a year-long inquiry to look into whether the takeout items can be recycled.
New York City’s recycling company says this is not a workable option right now, while opponents argue that the expense of requiring small businesses to comply would drive their costs up, translating into higher prices for the customers.
No date has been set for a City Council vote on the potential ban of the foam containers, but there is a clear effort to move the issue forward before the end of the year.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a rabid environmentalist, introduced the measure in February, but he will leave office at the end of the year. Newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday he also supports the council in this debate.
The foam food containers are an important part of New York’s take-out culture, but they take a very long time to break apart in landfills. As pieces get smaller they scatter, complicating recycling efforts, according to Deputy Mayor Caswell Holloway.
Approximately 23,000 tons of plastic foam are thrown out per year in New York. The city spends about $310 million per year burying more than 3 million tons of trash, Holloway said.
Michigan-based Dart Container Corp. is exploring whether the foam containers can be cleaned and then recycled to be used to make picture frames.
“If it can be recycled, sure, let’s recycle it, the most cost-effective and rational way to deal with this.” Holloway added.
Holloway says environmentally friendly containers would only cost two cents more than the plastic foam ones used now.
But for some small businesses, the cost can be crippling.
“It’s going to hurt my business really badly,” said Louis Maldonado, who owns two restaurants and spends about $1,600 every two weeks to order a total of 2,500 foam cups and plates.
However, bigger retailers such as Dunkin’ Brands say they hope to have an option within three years. Others, such as McDonald’s, have not commented.
How do you feel about New York City’s plans to ban plastic foam containers?