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New York Mayor Calls for Ban on Plastic Foam Food Containers

Eco friendly stone paper food containers Eco friendly stone paper food containers

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for a citywide ban on the plastic-foam packaging commonly used in food trays, take out food containers and coffee cups in his annual State of the City address this month. The ban is part of a far-reaching recycling effort the environmentally friendly Mayor hopes to implement before he leaves office at the end of 2013.

Bloomberg described plastic foam food packaging as “Something that we know is environmentally destructive and that may be hazardous to our health, that is costing taxpayers money and that we can easily do without, and is something that should go the way of lead paint. We can live without it, we may live longer without it, and the doggie bag and the coffee cup will survive just fine.”

According to The New York Times, the major’s office estimated the city’s annual waste stream includes about 20,000 tons of plastic foam. Plastic foam is not biodegradable, and recycling it can cost up to $20 per ton.

Plastic foam is often mistakenly referred to as “Styrofoam”, but Styrofoam maker Dow Chemical insists its product is not used in disposal foam food packaging products such as trays and cups.

Bloomberg announced his proposal on Thursday in his 12th and final State of the City speech as mayor. Other ambitious citywide regulations Bloomberg implemented while in office include a ban on smoking in New York bars, restaurants and parks; limits on the sales of sugary soft drinks, and a requirement that fast-food restaurants post the fat and calorie counts of their meals. 

His earlier green initiatives include a 6-cent surcharge on plastic bags, the regulation that forbids commercial establishments from running their air conditioners with their business doors open, and the replacement of the city’s streetlamps with energy efficient LEDs.

The ban on plastic foam containers for food requires the approval of City Council in order to be implemented. Commentators are predicting push back, especially from the restaurant industry and convenience stores, at least partly because a foam cup costs about ten cents less than a paper cup. 

Rick Sampson, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, said, “I don’t fault the mayor with what he’s trying to accomplish in terms of health. It’s how it’s done that creates the problem. Wouldn’t it be nice if he even talked to us about how this might impact the industry, or at least gave us a chance to try to work together on something that would accomplish his goals without hurting the biggest industry in New York City?” 

The foam packaging ban is part of Bloomberg vision of a larger recycling and garbage diversion initiative that includes expanding recycling to include all rigid plastics, installing one thousand new recycling bins on city streets, and opening a new recycling center in Brooklyn. Bloomberg also announced a pilot program that would allow New York City residents to recycle food waste by composting (as is already being done in a number of major cities across North America), and a new plan to encourage more electric cars on the streets.

Those manufacturers, restaurants, and convenience stores looking for suitable non-plastic foam take out containers for food need look no further than environmentally friendly, recyclable, FDA-compliant food grade stone paper. Durable stone paper (paper made almost entirely from calcium carbonate) is waterproof, greaseproof, tear resistant and fire resistant. It is available in all sizes and thicknesses.

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