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NYC, Albany Poised to Act on Styrofoam Container Bans

Photo: Bans are being considered on plastic and Styrofoam containers in New York City and Albany. Photo Credit: Mike Clifford
Photo: Bans are being considered on plastic and Styrofoam containers in New York City and Albany. Photo Credit: Mike Clifford
December 10, 2013

NEW YORK – New Yorkers throw away 40 tons of plastic foam each year, and local environmental advocates say much of it comes from eating fast food.

This week, measures are expected to be considered in New York City and Albany County to ban these plastic food containers.

The New York City Council proposal could come up as early as today, according to Travis Proulx, communications director for Environmental Advocates of New York.

"It's reasonable, in that it gives the industry two-and-a-half years from the time that it was announced, to either come up with alternatives, or prove that their product can be recyclable," he says.

While the measure was proposed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Proulx says he believes Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio will support it, too, because he has a history of supporting environmental measures.

A similar measure is also under consideration in Albany County that would take effect in six months. Proulx says many fast food chains are already being proactive in replacing some plastic containers.

"In fact, many of these companies have already started to make the switch, because they know their product isn't good,” he points out. “It takes 15 minutes to eat something out of a plastic container, but it will outlive you by 500 years."

Industry officials maintain the bans would be job-killers, but Proulx says that hasn't proven true on the West Coast, in communities where these types of bans have been enacted. He says his group has been active in pushing for a statewide ban since 2007.

"There hasn't been much traction in the State Legislature to get this passed, but what we are seeing is local governments and municipalities taking action on their own,” he explains. “And we're hoping that's going to prompt state government to actually be a leader in cleaning up New York's waste stream. "

Proulx adds that in addition to taking up space in landfills for centuries, the containers can leach toxics into food when heated and when they finally do break down, animals often mistake them for food.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY