NYC to ban polystyrene food containers

polystyrene takeout

New York City will immediately start phasing out foodservice operations’ use of polystyrene takeout containers after a judge ruled on Friday against an operator coalition that had sued to overturn such a regulation, Mayor Bill de Blasio said over the weekend.

Unless the measure is blocked again on appeal, the city will commence a public education campaign to smooth the way for the change to other sorts of containers. Operators will be given a six-month grace period to find alternatives before they’ll be subject to sanctions.

The measure was scheduled to take effect last November, after a five-year struggle to ban the containers. Weeks before the start date, a group called the Restaurant Action Alliance (RAA) filed a lawsuit challenging the rule change, arguing it was erroneously based on assertions that polystyrene could not feasibly be recycled.  The action said the New York State Supreme Court had already ruled that the familiar foam-type containers could be reclaimed and repurposed.

RAA members estimated that 40% to 60% of their sales come from food served in polystyrene containers.

Forcing foodservice operators and retailers to adopt non-foam-type containers would raise costs by about $11.2 million annually, according to the RAA.

It also argued in its Supreme Court action that polystyrene takeout containers account for just 20% of all the foam that flows into landfills. A ban would not resolve the problem, RAA contended.

Supreme Court Judge Margaret Chan ruled against the RAA on Friday, rebuffing the argument that recycling would be a feasible way to deflect polystyrene containers from landfills. She cited the contentions of Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia that recycling would not work for a city like New York, and noted that the official had exhaustively explored the possibility.

City Hall has been trying since 2013 to ban polystyrene takeout containers. A bill was passed by the City Council in December of that year and signed into law by de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, in the last days of his administration, with a ban set to take effect in 2016.

Restaurants, retailers and plastics manufacturers banded together to thwart the measure. They set up a pilot program to prove polystyrene could be recycled, and presented the evidence to the Supreme Court in Manhattan, which halted enactment of the law in September 2015.

The city conducted its own research, releasing a report in May 2017 that convinced a judge to lift the stay on the 2013 law.

The RAA’s action derailed the measure in September.

The group’s lawyer, former Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, told local media that the coalition is studying its legal options in the wake of Friday’s decision. 

New York City, which is currently considering a measure to prohibit restaurants from providing customers with plastic drinking straws, has long been the point of origin for restaurant-related measures that eventually become nationwide regulations. It was the first metropolitan area, for instance, to ban smoking and trans fats, and was the first to mandate the disclosure of nutritional information by chain restaurants.

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
kitchen staff

If noncommercial operators hope to pull job candidates away from restaurant jobs, here’s what they’ll need to offer, according to a flurry of new research.

The data underscore that pay, once third or fourth on most lists of the reasons foodservice employees leave a position, is becoming a far more important consideration for taking or keeping a job. Financial security is particularly important for members of so-called Gen Z, or what’s being defined as young people age 21 and under, according to the study just released by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (...

Ideas and Innovation

Not all the rivalry during a weekend of college football is limited to action on the field. Restaurants are intensifying their competition with college and university foodservices for the game day spreads that fans will set up in stadium parking lots and countless living rooms this season.

Operators ranging from Taco Bell to small independents are adding platters and meal packages this fall to capture more of the big-dollar spending by sports fanatics for tailgate parties and “couch gating,” the at-home version. They’re awakening to the opportunity many C&U foodservice...

Sponsored Content
local produce

From The Henry P. Kendall Foundation.

The Henry P. Kendall Foundation has spent more than 60 years investing in people and projects designed to make the world healthier and more sustainable. For the past six of those years, the Foundation has focused on the health and vitality of the food system within its native New England, with an eye toward increasing the amount of locally sourced food that is consumed in the region.

To do that, the Kendall Foundation looked to large-scale institutions, such as colleges and universities.

“By leveraging the buying power of the...

Sponsored Content
chicken wings

From Pierce Chicken.

Consumer demand for comfort foods is at an all-time high. Classic choices such as mashed potatoes, ice cream, French fries, meat loaf and macaroni and cheese continue to attract fans—even in senior living residences, cutting-edge college dining halls and office cafeterias where there are dozens of other on-trend menu choices.

One comforting ingredient that’s in high demand is chicken, but what is it about chicken that makes it such a feel-good food? Well, consumers grew up on Mom’s chicken soup and chicken pot pie, so it could be that it reminds them...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code