New York City Sued Over Wrongful Determination that Foam Isn’t Recyclable

September 14, 2017

New York City is preparing to institute a city-wide ban on expanded polystyrene foam, but the Restaurant Action Alliance NYC has other plans. This coalition of individual restaurant owners, foam product manufacturers, and recycling organizations is suing to overturn the controversial ban, as the de Blasio administration is acting inconsistently with a 2015 decision from the New York State Supreme Court.

In September 2015, the Court annulled and vacated the Commissioner’s first decision that food-service polystyrene foam was not recyclable. The Court ruled that foam—not to be confused with Styrofoam, a registered trademark of Dow Chemical—is in fact recyclable, and directed the Commissioner to issue a new determination that was consistent with the Court’s decision.

In the two years that have followed this decision, the City and the de Blasio administration have acted in direct opposition to this directive. Instead of implementing a recycling program “consistent with the Court’s decision,” the City has stubbornly continued to try to find reasons to eliminate this consumer-friendly material.

The Restaurant Action Alliance NYC has demonstrated that a recycling effort would not only reduce the amount of solid waste in the city’s landfills, it would save the City millions and cost the City nothing. Simply adding foam to the City’s existing collection routes would be a seamless solution, and foam industry representatives have already offered to cover the cost for the installation of sorting machines and technology.

Implementing the ban would come at the expense of New York City’s restaurants and small businesses.

Foam is good for New York City

Restaurants and small businesses benefit from this consumer-friendly product because it’s cost-effective, durable, and, of course, recyclable. Foam is reliable and has exceptional insulation properties to keep hot foods hot and cold food cold better than alternatives.

If New York’s businesses and restaurants are forced to switch to more expensive alternatives, they will have to absorb more than $56 million in higher costs—a disastrous situation for restaurants that already operate on razor-thin profit margins.

Foam recycling works

Cities and communities across the nation already recycle polystyrene foam, and do so effectively. When foam coffee cups, take-out containers, egg cartons, and other products are properly recycled, they can be remade into everyday products like rulers, picture frames, garden nursery trays, and interior crown molding.

Shifting the focus from a ban to recycling is not only in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling, it’s the right thing to do.