Foodservice Equipment Reports

New York Debates Ban On Foam Takeout Containers

After victories in his battles against tobacco, trans fats and soda, outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is waging one last battle with his city’s restaurant industry. His administration is pressuring the City Council to ban foam packaging, such as cups and takeout containers, from stores and restaurants.  

Last February, the mayor said that the containers, which are made from expanded polystyrene, are “virtually impossible to recycle.” Environmental groups long have complained that because the foam does not biodegrade, it fills landfills. A number of cities, including San Francisco and Seattle, already have banned the containers.

Much of the argument centers on whether food containers soiled with oil, grease, condiments and leftovers, known as “dirty foam,” can be recycled and whether there is a market interested in buying it. So-called “clean foam,” the packaging that comes wrapped around appliances, is easier to recycle. 

The proposed ban gives foam makers, such as Dart Container, a year to prove that soiled containers can be recycled. A vote is likely before the end of the year. Small foodservice operations grossing less than $500,000 a year and nonprofit organizations could apply for a waiver.