Plastic Foam Ban Introduced in City Council

Opponents say ban would cost city 1,500 jobs
By Kristen Meriwether
Kristen Meriwether
Kristen Meriwether
June 12, 2013 Updated: November 27, 2013

NEW YORK—New Yorkers are used to getting their coffee and takeout in Styrofoam cups and containers, but legislation introduced in City Council Wednesday aims to change that.

The proposed bill, sponsored by Council member Lewis Fidler, will ban polystyrene packaging beginning July 1, 2015. The ban also includes containers used to store meat and fish. 

In his State of the City speech in February, Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to ban the containers before he left office. 

“It’s not just terrible for the environment. It’s terrible for taxpayers,” the mayor said during his Valentine’s Day address. “Styrofoam increases the cost of recycling by as much as $20 per ton, because it has to be removed.”

Hours before the bill’s introduction in council, opponents of the bill held a rally on the steps of City Hall. Restaurant owner Johnny Falcones claims the bill would eliminate 1,500 jobs. 

“1,500 industrial jobs are very difficult to replicate,” Falcones said. “No one here has a plan to employ 1,500 people.”

Falcones claimed polystyrene is a “green material” and could be recycled.

Council member Peter Vallone Jr., who wrote the bill on plastic bag recycling in the city, also came out against the proposed legislation. 

“Before you lose 1,500 jobs, and before you double the cost to our small businesses for packaging, a cost to our restaurants and our delis, let’s try recycling,” Vallone said. 

Speaker Christine Quinn, an avid Dunkin’ Donuts coffee drinker, can often be spotted with a medium foam cup with the company’s signature logo. She is however, in support of the ban.

“I am very excited about our efforts to ban Styrofoam in New York City,” Quinn said from the Red Room at City Hall. “It is an important waste management and environmental step for the City of New York. I believe when we do that it will really set an example for other jurisdictions as well.”

Quinn, who was in a jovial mood during the press conference, said the move would help the city’s solid waste management plan.

“At the end of all time, the only things that will be left are cockroaches and Styrofoam, unless we do something,” Quinn said. 

Quinn said she looks forward to discussing jobs concerns, as well as the recycling option during hearings on the bill.

As for her current use of plastic foam, the speaker said she would not change her coffee selection to a small—which is served in paper cups at Dunkin’ Donuts.

“I follow the law, as it relates to coffee and all other caffeinated beverages,” she said with a sheepish grin. 

“It raises the question. If paper is good enough for a small coffee buyer, why isn’t it good enough for a medium and a large coffee buyer?” Quinn said, annunciating the word “coffee” with a thick New York accent. “If it keeps my coffee hot when it is small, why can’t it keep my coffee hot when it is medium? I rest my case.”

The bill will be heard in the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management. 

NTD Television contributed to this report.

Kristen Meriwether