The Big Apple bans plastic foam containers


The city of New York has officially banned plastic foam, a decision effective as of January 1, 2015. Plastic foam is very difficult to recycle. After numerous tests, NYC Department of Sanitation has concluded that it will not recycle it any more, as the process is inefficient and dangerous for the workers of NYC Department of Sanitation. Foam recycling is extremely complex and uses too many chemical products that are toxic for people and environment. Plastic foam is mainly used to contain foods. Many dine-in and take-away restaurants use foam food containers in New York City.


After San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, New York has decided to ban plastic foam in 2015. New York City’s Waste employees stopped recycling polystyrene foam on January 1, 2015. A transition period has been planned for the summer of 2015. During this period, people and professionals will have time to adapt their habits accordingly.

In New York City, plastic foam containers are specifically used for takeaways. New York City law covers everything from coffee cups and cafeteria trays to foam (or « packing ») peanuts. This decision is a soft revolution in the Big Apple and a victory for the anti-foam movement. “By July 1st, 2015, no food service establishment, mobile food commissary or store will be able to use, sell, or offer expanded polystyrene single service food items or the loose-fill packaging commonly known as packing peanuts,” specifies the New York City Administration Code.

“We have better options, better alternatives”

Natural materials that are alternatives to plastic foam are easy to create but more difficult to carry. The government of New York City has always been looking for other alternatives. « These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City, » said Bill de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City, in a statement announcing the ban.

« 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. »

In the United States, the Restaurant Action Alliance, a powerful lobbying group, has condemned the law, saying that this ban will increase eatery costs. In their opinion, New York should focus instead on developing a plan to recycle the material.

Despite this, the Mayor Office remains committed to protecting its employees and the environment. “New York Local Law 142 of 2013 was enacted placing restrictions on the sale or use of certain expanded polystyrene (EPS) items. The City has determined that expanded polystyrene single-service articles cannot be recycled at the designated recycling processing facility at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in a manner that is environmentally effective, economically feasible and safe for employees, as of January 1, 2015,” says the New York City Mayor Office.

New York City is joining a list of more than 100 jurisdictions nationwide now banning the stuff. In the same line, Vincent Gray, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., has decided to ban plastic foam starting in January 2016.

Photo © Shutter Stock / Jonathan Macagba