Monday marked the first day New York City’s ban on styrofoam went into effect. From now on, the city will issue fines to businesses for selling single-use styrofoam products.
The long-awaited ban formally started January 1, but the city granted businesses a six-month grace period prior to its enforcement. The new law prohibits products including takeout containers, cups, plates, and packing peanuts. Such a ban will most greatly impact the food industry, manufacturing companies, and retailers in the city.
In lieu of styrofoam products, officials encouraged businesses to transition to compostable or recyclable alternatives, such as paper. However, there will be some exceptions, such as containers to store raw meat.
Exceptions to the Styrofoam Ban
According to the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY), small businesses with an income less than $500,000 can apply for an exemption. That is, if they can provide evidence that switching to foam substitutes will create too substantial a financial hardship, they will be exempt from the ban.
Ramifications for Businesses
Businesses caught selling or distributing styrofoam products will be fined $250 by the DSNY for their first violation, $500 for their second, and $1,000 for every one that follows. The department sent mailers to almost 130,000 businesses to warn them about the ban and provide help during the transition.
This law will make NYC the largest city in the U.S. to prohibit styrofoam. Other cities that have enacted laws banning the material include San Diego, Miami Beach, Seattle, and Washington DC. Maine and Maryland also have plans to implement legislation banning styrofoam in the coming years.
“New York City’s ban on styrofoam is long overdue, and New Yorkers are ready to start using recyclable alternatives,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said upon announcing the ban last year. “There’s no reason to continue allowing this environmentally unfriendly substance to flood our streets, landfills, and waterways.”
Reactions to the Styrofoam Ban
Many council members have praised de Blasio, a 2020 presidential candidate, for his commitment to making New York City more sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Earlier this year, the mayor announced a Green New Deal for the city with goals to make NYC carbon neutral by 2050, and also released a $10 billion infrastructure project aimed at protecting the city from rising sea levels spurred by climate change.
de Blasio said in a statement that New Yorkers toss out 60 million pounds of styrofoam every year. He mentioned that this disposal leads to overflowing landfills and bolster the environmentally harmful petroleum economy. Further, the DSNY said styrofoam is harmful to the environment due to the difficulty associated with recycling it properly.
“We’re ending this dirty practice so we can ensure a cleaner, fairer future for our children,” de Blasio said.
This ban acts as a major victory in the city’s fight against climate change. With a city as big as NYC taking such steps against reducing pollution, there’s hope others will as well.