Foam Ban Pushback

More than 1,000 NYC businesses say "no" to proposed ban on polystyrene foam foodservice

NEW YORK -- Since June, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg introduced a proposed ban on polystyrene foam for foodservice to the New York City Council, more than 1,000 local businesses have written personal letters to members of the City Council in opposition to the legislation, a strong indication that restaurants across the city are opposing the proposal that would increase business costs and impose new regulations, said the Restaurant Action Alliance NYC.

Hundreds of restaurant owners have voiced concerns that the ban would force them to switch to more expensive and inferior alternative products. A recent study from MB Public Affairs showed that for every $1 now spent on polystyrene foam products, restaurants will have to spend at least $1.94 on replacements. The more expensive products also do not insulate as well. This can lead to double cupping with the use of sleeves, which raise costs, put additional pressure on already squeezed profit margins and increase waste.

Add to that it takes more energy and more emissions are created from manufacturing and using the alternatives to polystyrene foam foodservice, the group said.

"Foam containers are the best product for my business," said Dennis Linardaxuji, owner of Bus Stop Restaurant. "My customers like them because they keep food hot and don't make a mess. I like them because they are more affordable, convenient, sanitary and sturdy. I wrote to the City Council to tell them that they should stick up for the people who are creating jobs and feeding this city, not rubberstamping a regulation that won't do anything to reduce waste."

Several restaurant owners have also met privately with City Council members to express their point of view, and more meetings are scheduled. Council Members Robert Jackson and Diane Reyna, as well as others, plan to host neighborhood tours in the coming weeks to speak with members of the coalition in their districts about the ban and the economic burden it would impose.

"Our voices need to be heard. There is another side to this story that people should be aware of before they make a decision," said Gustavo Bescone, owner of Caridad Restaurant. "Protecting the environment is important, but this ban won't reduce waste or reduce emissions. And it will have real impacts on thousands of businesses, many of them employing and serving the most vulnerable."

Restaurant owners have also called on City Council members to consider the recycling of polystyrene foam, which would allow New York to join other leading cities that are already implementing such programs, like Los Angeles and more than 60 cities in California.

"Foam can and should be recycled, and I urge the Mayor to work with the Council to explore this option instead of a ban," said City Council Member Peter Vallone. "We need solutions that work, not window dressing."

Opponents to the ban have been organizing through the Restaurant Action Alliance NYC, a coalition of labor, business, and community leaders formed to stop unfair regulations that target small restaurants and push for smart alternatives that help local economies grow. It is supported by a range of groups and businesses that will be impacted by the ban, including restaurants, the National Federation of Independent Business and others.