New York City introduced a bill in 2018 that aims to ban plastic straws, and this year the city has set its sights on eliminating another environmental scourge: single-use foam containers.
As Grub Street reports, a foam ban went into effect on January 1, but businesses have until June 30 to comply. Beginning July 1, 2019, any businesses caught using the to-go containers will be fined. The law applies not only to takeout containers, but also to foam coffee cups, bowls, and plates as well as packing peanuts.
City officials initially approved the so-called "Foam Ban" in 2013, citing environmental concerns. However, as The New York Times points out, the containers are often incorrectly labeled as Styrofoam—a trademarked product made by Dow Chemical that isn’t used in disposable food containers.
More specifically, the containers are made of a type of plastic foam that’s not biodegradable and also notoriously hard to recycle. New York City's ban went into effect in July 2015, but a judge overturned it three months later, after the restaurant industry banded together and sued the city. The restaurant coalition argued the city could recycle the material and even save money by doing so. Of course, there were other motivating factors: Alternatives to plastic foam food containers are more expensive.
The legal battle continued into 2017, when another judged ruled in favor of the city and said the ban could be reenacted. However, the government is making special exceptions for nonprofit organizations and small business owners who can demonstrate that the ban would significantly hurt their operations. Also exempted are butcher shops, which use the foam containers for raw meat.
Meanwhile, a similar foam ban just took effect in the city of Rockville, Maryland. Dozens of other cities have banned the material, including Washington, DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. As for the proposed plastic straw ban in New York City: whether the city will follow the example set by Seattle and other cities remains to be seen.
[h/t Grub Street]