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Issue Date: Vol. 53, No. 3, March 2013, Posted On: 2/18/2013

Bloomberg's Next Target: Plastic Foam Containers

Emily Jed
TAGS: food service, foodservice containers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, plastic foam food packaging ban, Bloomberg plastic ban, polystyrene foam, recycling

NEW YORK CITY -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose regulatory hammer has come down hard on fatty foods, supersized sodas and smoking in bars, is taking a swing at plastic foam food packaging during his last term in office.

In his final State of the City address, the third-term mayor said he would seek to ban plastic foam takeout boxes, cups and trays from stores and restaurants. The City Council would have to approve the ban for it to become law.

The mayor's office estimates that the city's annual waste stream includes about 20,000 tons of polystyrene foam, which is sometimes sold under the brand name Styrofoam. Since the containers are not biodegradable, they reportedly can add as much as $20 a ton in recycling costs when the city processes materials. Plastic foam packaging is also viewed unfavorably because of how long it takes to break down in trash.

"One product that is virtually impossible to recycle and never biodegrades" is plastic foam, said Bloomberg. "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."

Styrofoam bans are already in place in Portland, OR, Los Angeles and San Francisco and Seattle.

The mayor's proposal is part of a larger environmental protection effort that includes installing 1,000 recycling containers on sidewalks, doubling the current number.

During Bloomberg's 11-year tenure, the city also has required chain restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus and banned trans fat in restaurant food. His controversial large soda ban, which was approved by the city's Board of Health in September, takes effect March 12.

The mayor is barred by law from seeking a fourth four-year term.

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