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New York City Bans Foam Packaging

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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New York City is joining a slew of California cities that have banned foam packaging. Known as expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam, the formerly common packaging product can’t be used by food service establishments, stores and manufacturers on and after July 1, 2015. Polystyrene loose packaging also falls under the ban.

New York City’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) determined that there is not a sufficient market for post-consumer EPS collected curbside, and therefore it was unable to accept it for recycling.

In December 2013, the New York City Council passed Local Law 142, which required the sanitation commissioner to determine if EPS foam could be recycled at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in a way that is “environmentally effective, economically feasible and safe for employees.” The DSNY collected about 28,500 tons of EPS in 2014 and an estimated 90 percent is from single-use food service products.

Businesses are being given time to ease into the restrictions. The law gives businesses a six-month grace period after the law goes into effect before fines will be imposed. Small businesses and nonprofit organizations with less than $500,000 in revenue a year can apply for hardship exemptions.

“These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City. We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “By removing nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from our landfills, streets and waterways, today’s announcement is a major step towards our goal of a greener, greater New York City.”

“While much of the waste we produce can be recycled or reused, polystyrene foam is not one of those materials,” said Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia. “Removing polystyrene from our waste stream is not only good for a greener, more sustainable New York, but also for the communities who are home to landfills receiving the city’s trash.”


EPS is a plastic resin that is made into foam articles such as packaging. The material is a notorious hazard to marine life, as EPS containers can break down into small pieces that marine animals may mistake for food.

Image credit: Peter Baldes

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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