FOAM BANNED in NYC
Update, June 8, 2018: VICTORY!
Judge rules that NYC can proceed with foam ban
Read: Court Upholds NYC Ban on Polystyrene Containers
NRDC Expert Blog, Eric A. Goldstein, June 9, 2018
"VICTORY – NYC's ban on polystyrene foam food and beverage containers has been upheld in court. As a result, dirty foam food cups and clamshells should disappear from restaurants and food service operations by early 2019.
New York City’s decision to ban environmentally burdensome polystyrene foam food and beverage containers has been upheld by a New York State court in a fact-based ruling that clears the way for a phase-out of the ubiquitous white foam coffee cups and clamshells in the nation’s largest city." (more ->)
Cafeteria Culture co-hosts
YOUTH RALLY to BAN FOAM at CITY HALL
for World Oceans Day 2018 w/ 200 NYC school students (details ->)
Beach litter is full of polystyrene foam.
Polystyrene is consistently reported as one of the top 10 items of debris recovered from shorelines and beaches worldwide (Ocean Conservancy, 2016).
NYC is no exception!
According to a 2015 study, the most abundant type of microplastics found in New York & New Jersey waterways were EPS foam particles, which made up about 38%, or close to 63 million plastic particles at any time in our local waters (NY/NJ Baykeeper)
More than 100 communities in the US have banned EPS foam,
including Washington DC, San Francisco, Baltimore, Seattle,
Albany County (NY), and Ulster County (NY). H
Sample script (or email) here
(Please adapt this letter to fit the needs of your community and campaign)
Hello, my name is ________ and my address is _________.
I am contacting Council Member_______ to urge her/him take action to ban toxic and polluting plastic styrene foam litter by signing onto _____.
Styrofoam litter poses a serious threat to the health of our oceans, marine wildlife and now our seafood! It is consistently reported as one of the top 10 items of debris recovered from beach clean-ups worldwide. (Ocean Conservancy, 2016). NYC is no exception!
The chemical styrene, a major component of polystyrene food containers, has been categorized as a “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogen" by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Styrene is toxic and polluting from the start to and forever thereafter. Nobody should be eating or drinking from containers made of styrene, not our kids, not our parents, and not our neighbors! The market is full of safe and affordable alternatives.
Due to the city’s outdated sewer systems, when it rains as little as 1 inch, street litter is entering our local waterways. Styrene foam is particularly brittle. As it breaks up into tiny microplastics, it enters our seafood chain, accumulating more toxins that adhere it it along the way. Recent studies show that 1 in 4 fish contain microplastics and that by 2050, there will be more plastics (by weight) than fish in the oceans (World Economic Forum).
Thank you for taking local action on this important environmental and health issue.
Plastic foam is a toxic threat to our communities, oceans, wildlife & seafood for generations to come. NYC & over 100 other communities have voted yes to #banfoam. Let's get foam banned in our city!
LET'S GET POLYSTYRENE (commonly called "styrofoam") food and beverage containers banned in NYC
as 100 other US cities have done - including Baltimore!
"As experts in children's environmental health, we know that what we do to the environment, we ultimately do to ourselves and to our children. Products like polystyrene create pollution where they are produced, where they are discarded, and inside our bodies. They dirty our air, contaminate our water, and get into the food chain. Because polystyrene threatens human health and cannot be practically recycled, we support a polystyrene ban."
Dr. Perry Elizabeth Sheffield, MD, MPH
Deputy Director, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Departments of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine
Read the Determination on the Recyclability of Food-Service Foam
Confused about styrofoam and recycling?
Your donation brings environmental-STEM education
to NYC schools in underserved communities.
The incineration of toxic polystyrene foam hurts our climate & our health,
POLYSTYRENE never biodegrades but breaks up into tiny toxic microplastics that harm wildlife and poison our food web.
Microplastics mimic plankton, an important food source for fish and seabirds. They also act like sponges, absorbing toxins commonly found in polluted waters, like PCBs, pesticides and flame retardants, carrying those additional toxins with them.
As a part of the recent “New Plastics Economy” report produced by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, leaders of 15 global brands—including Dow Chemical, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble—recommended that polystyrene products be phased out. (https://newplasticseconomy.org)
The polystyrene industry claims that a ban will hurt low income communities, yet low income New Yorkers are more likely to be eating hot foods in toxic styrene containers on a regular basis, and more likely to negatively impacted by the transport and incineration of our garbage.
Recycling dirty styrofoam
is not economically feasible
and keeps styrene toxins in our environment.
Styrene, the main component of styrofoam,
remains toxic from start to forever!
Learn more about Cafeteria Culture's
Plastic Free Waters K-12 education and youth media programs
NYC FOAM BAN HISTORY
Learn about Styrofoam Out of Schools here->
Battle Over Polystyrene Waste
Is Foaming in the NYC Council
May 09, 2017 Eric A. Goldstein, NRDC
The New York City Council is again confronting the controversial issue of how to get rid of polystyrene foam food and beverage containers―one of the most environmentally troublesome constituents in the municipal waste stream.
Expanded polystyrene foam―the lightweight, brittle, white material that is used in billions of single-use coffee cups and take-out food containers every year―is a first-class environmental nuisance.
Huge volumes of these cups and clamshells end up as New York City litter. They quickly break into small pieces on city streets and in playgrounds, parks and beaches, creating clean-up woes for home-owners and Sanitation and Parks employees. And they often find their way into local rivers and bays, where their crumbling nuggets can be mistaken for food by fish and birds.
(continue reading ->)
What was behind the law suit filed against NYC for banning styrofoam - filed by Restaurant Action Alliance and Dart?
Big $$$$, corporate greed and jobs for former government officials!
The plastic foam industry's wooing of a term-limited councilman led to a judge overturning
a city law. CRAINS, New York Business, Erik Engquist,
September 24, 2015
The minority caucus had been targeted in 2013 by the plastic-foam industry because they offered a sympathetic ear and there was a racial and ethnic angle to be played. Low-cost food establishments run by immigrants in minority districts often use plastic-foam cups and clamshell containers because they are cheaper and more insulating than more environmentally-friendly alternatives. The controversial material—known in the industry as expanded polystyrene, or EPS—may also be more readily accepted by their customers than by those in wealthier neighborhoods.
Industry representatives, led by Michigan-based Dart Container Corp., met for 30 minutes with the council’s minority caucus including Mr. Jackson, who was prevented by term limits from seeking re-election to the council that year but was running in the Democratic primary for Manhattan borough president. They argued that foam containers could be washed and recycled along with rigid plastic into pellets and used to make picture frames and other products. Moreover, Dart said it would supply the washing equipment and buy the used foam for the first few years of the program...
NYC FOAM BAN - the back story
- Legal battles
NYC appealed the NY State Supreme Court judge's decision to overturned the foam ban legislation.
But, on Dec. 3rd, Judge Chan of the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, denied the city’s motion to appeal.
DART Container Corporation, the world's largest manufacturer of styrene foam food ware, and the American Chemistry Council have millions to spend on lobbying in NYC to support their business interests. DART claims that styrene foam (aka, styrofoam) can be recycled in NYC yet, recycling styrofoam is not economically feasible and styrene remains toxic from start to finish! (learn more from Eric Goldstein's NRDC blog here->)
Jan 8, 2015, Mayor de Blasio's Administration BANS SINGLE-USE STYROFOAM PRODUCTS
January 8, 2015
NYC Council votes unanimously to ban polystyrene foam!
DECEMBER, 19, 2013, press release
For Immediate Release: Thursday, 12/19/13
GROUPS APPLAUD NY CITY COUNCIL’S PASSAGE OF POLYSTYRENE FOAM BAN
UNANIMOUS VOTE SENDS STRONG MESSAGE OF SUPPORT
(New York City) Environmental groups and recycling advocates cheered the New York City Council’s passage of legislation to ban the use of disposable polystyrene food service ware at restaurants and stores in New York City. The bill will also prohibit the sale of polystyrene foam loose fill packaging (aka “packing peanuts”) in the city. Both will go into effect July 1, 2015, unless the Sanitation Commissioner determines that these materials can be safely and cost-effectively recycled in an environmentally sound manner at the City’s recycling processing facilities.
The bill passed this evening with a vote of 51-0.
“Passage of this bill is a symbolic and substantive victory that should make New York’s streets, parks and waterways cleaner and relieve the Sanitation Department from having to deal with some of the most troublesome products in the city’s waste stream,” said Eric A. Goldstein, NYC Environment Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The ban on polystyrene is a huge step forward for NYC,” said Colin Beavan, Executive Director of the No Impact project. “The decision our City Council members made today will benefit the health of people and of our habitat.”
"Banning these toxic containers is a victory for our health and our children’s future,” said Debby Lee Cohen, Director of Cafeteria Culture (originally known as Styrofoam Out of Schools). “New York City is once again leading the way! Our children's children's children will be thankful!”
“We applaud the City Council for working together with the Bloomberg Administration to pass meaningful legislation to reduce harmful waste in New York City and advance a more sustainable waste management system,” said Armando Chapelliquen, Project Coordinator at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). “This is a wonderful gift to the people and the environment of New York City this holiday season.”
Intro 1060A was introduced at the request of the Bloomberg Administration as part of their sustainability plans for New York, and sponsored by Councilmember Lew Fidler and 23 other City Council members.
Although the legislation gives the polystyrene manufacturers a year to demonstrate that the materials are feasible to recycle at New York City’s recycling processing facilities, advocates are confident that the ban will go into effect on July 1, 2015.
In passing this legislation, New York City is setting a new benchmark for other major cities across the United States to follow. San Francisco, Seattle, and dozens of other municipalities have already adopted legislation restricting the use of disposable polystyrene foam food containers, and Albany County enacted a ban on their use in chain restaurants just last week.
This measure addresses a particularly problematic part of the waste stream. Single-use polystyrene foam food containers like coffee cups and take-out containers have a useful life of 10-20 minutes but persist in the environment for hundreds of years. The vast majority end up in landfills, incinerators, or as litter. In the environment, polystyrene foam breaks down into small pieces that pollute our parks, streets, beaches, and waterways, and pose a significant threat to aquatic wildlife.
Groups supporting the polystyrene foam ban include: Cafeteria Culture; Center for Health, Environment & Justice; Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education (COARE); Citizens Campaign for the Environment; Citizens Committee for New York City; Green Schools Alliance; Human Impacts Institute; Lower East Side Ecology Center; Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board; Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Neighbors Allied for Good Growth; New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG); No Impact Project; Surfrider Foundation, NYC Chapter; and Sustainable South Bronx.
Polystyrene BAN Coalition Letter to New York City Council
November 25, 2013
Coalition Letter to New York City Council
November 25, 2013
Re: Support ban on EPS food service packaging (Int. No. 1060-2013)
Oppose EPS recycling designation & pilot program (Int. No. 380, et al.)
Dear New York City Council Member,
We, the undersigned organizations, strongly support Int. No. 1060-2013, which would ban foodservice packaging made of expanded polystyrene (“EPS” aka Styrofoam™). Moreover, we oppose Int. No. 380
and the other related industry EPS “recycling” bills. The recycling pilot is supported mainly by EPS manufacturers, most notably Dart, and chemical company lobbyist groups that are desperate to preserve a market or their product by delaying a vote on a ban.
As part of the EPS recycling pilot, Dart has reportedly suggested the idea of paying for all EPS collected by the city for next five years. This may sound nice at first glance, but Dart is just “recycling” the same delay tactics that have failed elsewhere – food service EPS has not been successfully recycled curbside by any municipality. Dart references successful programs in Los Angeles, but that is just smoke and mirrors.
According to a report by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, of the 32 communities in Los Angeles County that collect EPS curbside 8 had discontinued the programs, 15 were sending the collected material to landfill, and only 7 communities were actually sending the material to a recycling facility – but even then food containers were not being separated and recycled at all (1).
EPS poses a human health concern. Styrene, a monomer that has been shown by several studies to migrate from EPS to food is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2). Styrene exposure increases the risk of certain cancers, especially in workers in EPS manufacturing factories. Alternatives to polystyrene food packaging include plastic resins that have viable recycling markets (PET, HDPE), paper packaging made from recycled paper, and reusable containers.
Recyclable alternatives to EPS exist at comparable price points. Supporting the safer alternatives creates more green jobs and will help prevent occupational exposure to styrene.
For all of the foregoing reasons, nationwide there are now over 100 municipal EPS food service ordinances. In an effort to save taxpayers money, and protect the environment, cities have sought source reduction of a toxic, polluting material for which there are sustainable, cost–effective alternatives. Don’t leave New York City behind. Don’t settle for dubious recycling that has previously failed elsewhere. Don’t mislead the public with designations that are unsupported by reality.
Your support of a strong EPS ordinance banning EPS food service will make a difference.
For your convenience we have prepared the attached fact sheet regarding the legislation. Thank you for your time and attention.
Eric Goldstein, Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
Debby Lee Cohen, Director and Founder, Cafeteria Culture
Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board
Colin Beavan, Executive Director, No Impact Project
Tara DePorte, Executive Director and Founder, The Human Impacts Institute
Christine Datz-Romero, Co-founder and Executive Director, The Lower East Side Ecology Center
Veronique Pittman, The Chief Information Officer, Green Schools Alliance
Peter H. Kostmayer, Chief Executive Officer, Citizens Committee for New York City
Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Mike Schade, Markets Campaign Coordinator, Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Surfrider Foundation, NYC Chapter
Christopher Chin, Executive Director, The Center for Oceanic Awareness,
Research, and Education (COARE)
Michael Brotchner, Executive Director, Sustainable South Bronx
Rita Pasarell, Board Member, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth
1. County of Los Angeles Public Works, “Expanded Polystyrene Food Containers in Los Angeles County - PART TWO:
Feasibility of Implementing a Restriction of Expanded Polystyrene Food Containers at County Unincorporated Area
Retailers,” Nov. 2011 at p. 31, available at http://file.lacounty.gov/bos/supdocs/57043.pdf.
2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service National Toxicology Program, “Report on
Carcinogens,” Twelfth Edition, 2011 at p. 383, available at http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/roc12.pdf
NYC POLYSTYRENE BAN FACT SHEET (2013)
NYC POLYSTYRENE BAN FACT SHEET
SUPPORT: BAN Int. No. 1060 to Ban Polystyrene Food Service Containers.
OPPOSE: DESIGNATING EPS AS RECYCLABLE & RECYCLING PILOT Int. No. 380 and Other Industry “Recycling” Bills.
WHY BAN FOOD SERVICE EXPANDED POLYSTYRENE (“EPS” AKA STYROFOAM™)?
EPS exposure has possible human health implications.
• In 2011, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program listed styrene as
“reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”(1)
• There have been many studies documenting the migration of styrene monomer from cups and bottles into food
• There are legitimate risks to workers engaged in the production of polystyrene. And while risks have decreased
0ver the last several decades due to improved safety practices, “significant exposure of workers can still occur.”(3)
EPS is far worse for the environment than other types of food service containers.
• EPS is lightweight and floats, and it readily travels from land to inland waterways and out to the ocean. EPS foam
easily breaks into small pieces which are commonly mistaken for food as birds and other marine wildlife ingest
these plastic pieces.(4)
The cost difference for alternative packaging is not significant and will not cause economic hardship.
• A study found that the average price difference between foam and non-foam is just $0.01.(5)
• The City of San Francisco has had over 4,500 businesses come into compliance with its EPS ban and has achieved
100% compliance. SF has not needed to issue any financial hardship waivers as allowed by the ordinance, with
only two businesses who requested a waiver.
• As market demand increases for alternatives to EPS, prices for alternative products are likely to decrease even
further. Also, companies offering viable EPS alternatives will enter the market, creating green jobs.
Non-foam products perform well in keeping “hot food hot” and “cold food cold.”
• Starbucks, an iconic coffee brand, does not use EPS. Jamba Juice and McDonalds have each recently announced
that they will cease using EPS cups as well.
• Many other restaurants already choose to use alternative food service packaging, including coated paper as well
as plastics that have viable recycling markets (PET, HDPE).
Have other communities banned food service EPS?
• In 1998, Suffolk County in Long Island was the first US jurisdiction to adopt a ban on EPS food packaging.(6)
• As of November 18, 2013, 74 local jurisdictions in California have adopted local ordinances banning certain types
of polystyrene, the vast majority of which focus on food service EPS(7)
• Earlier this month Albany County, New York adopted legislation banning food service EPS.
The “recycling pilot” legislation is simply an attempt by EPS industry groups to delay a ban.
• The proposed expanded polystyrene foam (“EPS”) ban is supported by a grassroots coalition of community and
environmental groups in New York City that have been studying the issue for years.
• The recycling pilot is supported primarily by Dart, one of the largest manufacturers of EPS, and chemical
• Dart is just “recycling” the same tactics that have failed elsewhere. According to a report by the Los Angeles
County Department of Public Works, of the 32 communities in Los Angeles County that collect EPS curbside 8
had discontinued the programs, 15 were sending the collected material to landfill, and only 7 communities were
actually sending the material to a recycling facility – but even then food containers were not being separated
and recycled at all.(8)
• Further, in 2008-09, the recycling of polystyrene lunch trays was piloted with 100 NYC schools and failed!(9)
Recycling food service EPS does not make sense economically.
• Many of New York City’s municipal recycling facilities, including Sims, oppose the EPS recycling designation and
pilot because there is currently no market for selling food service EPS.
• EPS is challenging to bale because it breaks easily and is very lightweight, and does not make financial sense to
truck to a manufacturer.
• Only a handful of companies are known for EPS recycling, including NEPCO (pictures frames) and Timbron
(molding), neither of which accept food-contaminated EPS.
• In San Jose (CA), which tried to divert EPS in its curbside program numerous times over the past 15 years,
recycling efforts have failed. (10)
Recycling food service EPS does not make sense environmentally.
• The old adage “Reduce Reuse Recycle” is still true. It’s better to reduce something at its source than to recycle
• This is particularly true for products that are difficult to sort and recycle, like EPS.
• This is a classic example of “greenwashing,” which means promoting something as good for the environment
when it isn’t.
1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service National Toxicology Program, “Report on Carcinogens,” Twelfth Edition,
2011 at p. 383, available at http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/roc12.pdf
2) Maqbool Ahmad and Ahmad S. Bajahlan, Journal of Environmental Sciences, “Leaching of styrene and other aromatic compounds in drinking
water from PS bottles,” Volume 19, Issue 4, 2007, Pages 421–426, available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1001074207600709
3) “Report on Carcinogens” at p. 388.
4) City of San Jose Memorandum to Transportation and Environment Committee, “Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance Implementation Results And
Actions To Reduce EPS Foam Food Ware,” Nov. 2012 at p. 3, available at http://www3.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/CommitteeAgenda/TE/20121203/TE20121203_d5.pdf.
5) Clean Water Action, “Polystyrene Foam Take-Out Packaging and Price Comparable Alternatives,” July 2012, available at http://www.cleanwateraction.org/files/publications/CWA%20EPS%20Foam%20Cost%20Comparison.pdf
6) Ecology, “Polystyrene Bans Sweep Across the US: Cities Move To Embrace Greener Packaging Alternatives,” Aug. 2013, available at
7) Clean Water Action Expanded Polystyrene Foam Ban Map, “Total polystyrene foam foodware bans in California: 74,”
http://www.cleanwateraction.org/ca/rethinkdisposable/foambansmap (last visited Nov. 18, 2013).
8) County of Los Angeles Public Works, “Expanded Polystyrene Food Containers in Los Angeles County - PART TWO: Feasibility of Implementing a
Restriction of Expanded Polystyrene Food Containers at County Unincorporated Area Retailers,” Nov. 2011 at p. 31, available at
9) New York City Department of Sanitation, All About Foam Plastics, “Foam Lunch Trays,”
10) City of San Jose Memorandum to Transportation and Environment Committee, “Stakeholder Process For
Prohibition Of Expanded Polystyrene Food War,” Nov. 2011 at p. 9, available at
MORE REASONS TO BAN POLYSTYRENE
Excerpt from the testimony to NY City Council, November, 2013, Debby Lee Cohen, Executive Director and Founder of Cafeteria Culture (originally called Styrofoam Out of Schools).
The chemical styrene, a major component of polystyrene food containers, has been categorized as a “reasonably anticipated to be carcinogen" by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Styrene is toxic and polluting from start to ongoing.