Mayor Bloomberg Pushes for Ban on Styrofoam Cups

New York City elected Bill De Blasio as their new mayor earlier this month, but Bloomberg still has some time in office. Before he goes out, he wants to push a final, significant piece of legislation into law: banning plastic foam cups and plates. 

Rubenstein/Wikimedia CommonsRubenstein/Wikimedia CommonsBloomberg has supported the ban since it was introduced by Brooklyn Councilman Lewis Fidler this summer. Now, at Bloomberg’s request, the City Council’s Sanitation Committee will hold a hearing Monday to discuss the bill.

Bloomberg has said the ban is a no-brainer for environmental reasons. According to the New York Post, Bloomberg spokesman Jake Goldman said, "When polystyrene foam is used for food service it becomes a devastating pollutant that infects our parks and waterways while never biodegrading and has been classified a carcinogenic health hazard by the National Institute of Health."

The Post also reports that plastic foam food containers add 23,000 tons of trash a year to landfills.

Although Mr. Bloomberg is notorious for his Nanny State tendencies, the plastic foam bill is not as unprecedented as, say, the large soda ban. Many cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, have banned the substance.

However, the bill’s opponents argue that the ban will be extremely costly for small businesses. The American Chemistry Council reports that replacing polystyrene cups and trays with the cheapest alternative will cost New Yorkers $91.3 million per year. MB Public Affairs found that for every $1 spent on polystyrene foam goods, businesses  will have to spend $1.94 on alternative replacements, effectively doubling costs. Their report finds that “this 94% is in effect an “environmental tax” far higher than any current sales tax or import duty rates affecting the cost of consumer products.” And given that most large chains in the city have already stopped using polystyrene, small businesses will be hit especially hard.  

Additionally, some trade groups and politicians have noted alternative approaches to reducing environmental harm. In California, 65 cities with a total population of around 8 million (similar to New York City’s) have polystyrene recycling centers. New York City’s recycling centers currently reject the material, citing prohibitively high costs.

Forbes’ Jeff Stier writes of Seattle’s problems with their polystyrene ban:

In coffee-loving Seattle, where styrofoam cups are already banned, they’ve been having a hard time recycling their allegedly green paper cups, according to The Seattle Times.

They’ve found that mills don’t want recycled coffee cups because the process takes longer, making cups more expensive to process than items like recycled cardboard boxes. And facilities that do accept the “mixed paper” that paper coffee cups and other food service items contribute to, only use it in a 1:10 ratio with higher-quality fibers. So there’s not much of a market for it, at least in the U.S.

Even if Bloomberg doesn't manage to get the ban passed, his successor may try. On his campaign website, De Blasio pledges to end government use of plastic foam. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Brett L||

    Nurse Bloomberg to NYC: "I'm going to have to ask for you to bend over and relax one... last... time."

  • tarran||

    Herr Oberbürgermeister Bloomberg is in more dire need of a blowjob than any white man in history.

  • Dweebston||

    Alternative lede: Outgoing mayor continues fight for infamous "Biggest Asshole of New York" award.

  • Brett L||

    "Continues"? Unless there's some NYPD guy whose job it has been to sodomize one random person after another with a night stick for Bloomberg's entire 3 terms, this has been long settled.

  • ||

    To be fair, the likelihood of said NYPD guy existing is at least 50%.

  • Brett L||

    Yeah, as I typed that out, I grew sad at the thought that this wasn't some bit of ridiculous hyperbole that could be immediately dismissed.

  • Doctor Whom||

    I thought they used toilet-plunger handles, but then, I'm not up to date on the NYPD's non-consensual BDSM.

  • Brett L||

    Maybe they do. IIRC, they used to call the night stick sodomy, "the Giuliani", and were forced to stop after losing several lawsuits. So maybe "the Bloomberg" is toilet-plunger handles.

  • Zeb||

    I think they manage a good variety of implements for their sodomy program. Toilet plungers, broomsticks, radio antennas, nightsticks. Fingers and ding-dongs for those who are really personally committed to their work.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Is Bloomberg a laughing stock in New York City?

    I've always kinda assumed that he has the support of the people who live there, but maybe I'm wrong.

    Maybe they're all laughing at him?

    I sure hope so.

  • tarran||

    I have several family members who are New Yorkers.

    They love him. They believe in the soda bans. They think stop and frisk is needed to keep guns off the street so that there are no more Sandy Hooks. They see in him a great businessman/technocrat who knows just what society needs.

  • ||

    I only have anecdotal evidence, but I spoke a little bit to a young transplanted Manhattanite (meaning she transplanted from the NJ 'burbs to NYC). She was a very typical middle-class successful young woman in the fashion industry. Probably considers herself a liberal Democrat.

    She LOVED Bloomie. I think it had something to do with making the city safe for nice little white girls like her.

  • Ken Shultz||

    But he's such a paternalistic ass!

    Feminists should hate him.

    Why would a liberated woman want a man like Bloomberg making choices for her?

    UGH!

  • ||

    I don't think she was that deep a thinker.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Choice means only abortion. Stop being so -ist, -centric, -phobic, and -archal.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Welcome to one of the many paradoxes of feminism.

  • Zeb||

    Easy. Feminists want a understanding feminine nanny state, not nasty bepenised government paternalism.

  • Zeb||

    Nice little white girls in the fashion industry aren't usually all that feminist. She probably didn't want an extra large soda or extra salt on her fries, so gave it no further thought.

  • ||

    Yeah, I didn't get the impression she was all that feminist. Or had any idea about any principle beyond "even though I chose to live in the Big City, I'd rather have life be more like it was growing up in Montclair"

  • Ken Shultz||

    I see a poll suggesting that earlier this month, 47% of New York's registered voters say that the job Bloomberg is doing is either good or excellent.

    http://maristpoll.marist.edu/w.....131029/NYC Mayoralty/Complete November 4, 2013 NBC 4 New York_Wall Street Journal_Marist Poll NYC Tables.pdf#page=14

    I don't understand why he isn't a laughing stock. In Toronto, they've got a mayor who's doing drugs. In New York City, they've got a mayor who acts like he's on drugs.

    Jerry Brown isn't anywhere near as loopy as Mayor Bloomberg. ...not lately, anyway.

  • CE||

    It's always 47 percent.

  • KPres||

    "Is Bloomberg a laughing stock in New York City?"

    Maybe he's a libertarian false flag. Most statists know to be more subtle and operate through complex business regulations so that people either aren't aware of it or blame the business if they do become aware. You're not supposed to target regular people. This is Communism 101.

  • JD the elder||

    To be sure, NYC is a hellhole of statism; even people who don't specifically like Bloomberg are usually into the general idea of big, activist government. Not everybody likes Bloomberg: I know Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians who hate him. But all these people are pretty much systematically excluded from having any meaningful impact by the larger political culture.

    A large part of Bloomberg's popularity, IMO, is that he's careful not to fuck with rich White Manhattanites. Rich White Democrats who live in Manhattan have no beef with his policies, and they are, unfortunately, the ones with the most money, power, and influence.

  • AuH20||

    From the NYers I've talked to, they just like him. He's seen as a good guy, trying to do good things. What those things are? They don't get too specific. Why he's a good guy? Again, unspecific.

    Look at it this way: NYCers feel the EXACT SAME WAY about Obama, by and large. To proggies, policies, accomplishments, philosophy- irrelevant. Feelings? ALL THAT MATTERS!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Michael Bloomberg knows what's good for you, and he knows what's good for America!

    Bloomberg 2016

  • Brett L||

    Hopefully, he'll pick Charlie Crist as his running mate and New York and Florida will improve with them gone.

  • CE||

    Because he always wanted people to hold up signs that said "Bloomberg -- Crist".

  • GILMORE||

    The businesses most significantly affected by this law are generally the cheapest takeout food joints.

    Hardly anyone uses Styrofoam cups anymore, but tons of delis, Chinese restaurants, street food vendors, etc. use Styrofoam trays for takeout lunch boxes, etc. Probably the single biggest source of revenue for the thousands of little restaurants around NYC are businesspeople who 'grab lunch' and take it to their office/desk. I suppose the nannyprogs would believe we should all be those people who bring their recycled hemp shopping bag to work with Tupperware containers of tofu-seaweed salad and brown rice, but no - there's probably a hundred million bucks spent in NYC lunch shops every workday. And their margins are (pun intended) paper-thin. You wouldn't think so when a sandwich can cost $10 in the city, but that's the truth, ruth. Rent.

    So, what Mayor Mike should REALLY do before leaving office is make sure to fuck over the small businesspeople in order to pamper the moral narcissism of his upper-west side liberal fucktard supporters so they can feel like they're "helping the environment" while slugging down multiple PET bottles of water a day = probably the single most environmentally wasteful item in human consumption, and the largest source of waste growth in urban areas.

    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/w.....79179.html

    but no, mike = don't go after Yuppies! Fuck over a Chinese restaurant ASAP

  • Ken Shultz||

    I've always suspected that he throws these issues out as distractions.

    I understand that people are so afraid that they're children will have to attend a public school in New York, that they'll pay exorbitant prices to get them into private schools--even the private kindergartens cost an arm and a leg.

    But fixing the public schools is hard. Much easier to throw soda bans and Styrofoam cups into the debate like a hand grenade to distract people from the intractable problems.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Based on interviews and accounts of him I've read, I think his nanny credentials are legit. He struggles with his own vices and overcomes them with sheer force of will, which most people do not possess. Therefore he, a man of strength and willpower, will use that ability and do what he can to save them from themselves.

  • Ken Shultz||

    He makes me want to throw up.

  • ||

    Kind of like...I dunno... aTriumph of the Will?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Nice.

  • Swiss Servator, referendiffic!||

    You know who else...nah, I can't finish.

  • CE||

    Well, New Yorkers appear correct in this:

    ...people are so afraid that they're children...

    At least Bloomberg treats them that way.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    making the city safe for nice little white girls like her.

    Savages were caged.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    And their margins are (pun intended) paper-thin. You wouldn't think so when a sandwich can cost $10

    How much do a couple of slices of bread and some tuna cost? What a ripoff!

  • Brett L||

    Don't forget the 17 different inspection and regulation guys all dipping their beaks.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Once, while I was paying at a deli in NYC, I noticed that the wall behind the cashier was almost completely covered in permits and certificates. I asked how many licenses he needed, and IIRC, he answered 17.

  • Brett L||

    This is like working for The Onion. I make shit up that seems outlandish and it turns out to be reasonable.

  • GILMORE||

    "
    The Late P Brooks|11.25.13 @ 12:18PM|#

    How much do a couple of slices of bread and some tuna cost? What a ripoff!
    "

    First off, if you're gonna order a fucking tuna fish sandwich in a NYC deli, go straight back to Peoria because you've got problems that we can't help with. At all.

    And $10 is *cheap*

    You want the good shit, come with money to burn and an empty stomach. And some tums.

    http://www.2ndavedeli.com/wp-c.....ine-in.pdf

    Yes, that *was* $23 for a brisket & chicken fat sandwich.

    I split the Triple-Bypass plate with 3 people ($45). We barely finished it. I drank like 5 Dr. Browns black cherry sodas while trying to stomach like 3 pounds of corned beef and potato pancake.

    Also, don't bother trying to figure out why the 'second avenue deli' is on 33rd and Lexington. Long story.

  • Brett L||

    Oh man... That's some good looking stuff right there.

  • SugarFree||

    Babka season is upon, the most holy of seasons. My wife brought me a huge piece of chocolate last fall from 2ndAve. And a smaller amount of cinnamon, the lesser babka.

  • ||

    Only NYC deli I've eaten at was Katz's - before When Harry Met Sally. I wish I could remember more about it, because I probably wouldn't go in there now because of crowds.

  • Zeb||

    I've never understood why anyone would order a tuna sandwich out anywhere. I enjoy a good tuna sandwich from time to time, but if I'm going to pay someone else to prepare food for me it had better be something that I can't do better, cheaper and quicker myself.

  • Zeb||

    I don't understand why anyone would eat in Manhattan either. In my (admittedly limited) experience in NYC, you can get all the same stuff, just as good, for way less in outer boroughs. Plus it's always crowded, always noisy, everything is expensive and there is nothing you can do that doesn't cost money.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Vote for me for Mayor. I will declare nanny-statist politicians to be contrary to public health, safety, welfare, and morals and then ban them.

  • some guy||

    "won't you miss me?"

    If you think this is almost over, I've got a bridge to sell you. This man has tons of money and influence in that town. Even after he leaves office he'll still be pushing this kind of BS, just through different channels.

  • Robert||

    Is this serious about styrofoam breaking down to carcinogenic materials??! I'd think if there were such a toxicity potential, people wouldn't be wrapping their food in it!

  • Robert||

    "When polystyrene foam is used for food service it becomes a devastating pollutant that infects our parks and waterways while never biodegrading and has been classified a carcinogenic health hazard by the National Institute [sic] of Health."


    If it never biodegrades, how could it possibly release carcinogens? Make up your mind what the problem is!

    I think they just made all that shit up. If there were even a hint of that being a problem, FDA would yank its clearance as an "indirect food additive", which is how materials are classified that have contact with food and could incidentally become "additives" in that sense. The damn stuff is about as harmless as can be. The foam is soft, so it can't even strangle birds or fish. Who started this vicious rumor, and what gives it such staying power?

  • Zeb||

    Well, I think the parks and waterways bit refers to people throwing their trash on the ground, which is certainly legitimate, but hardly unique to foam cups.
    And the list of things that are possibly carcinogens is so long that I wouldn't be surprised if that part is true yet useless information.

  • Robert||

    This is what NIH actually said at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/healt.....#styrene08 :

    Styrene should not be confused with polystyrene (styrofoam). Although styrene, a liquid, is used to make polystyrene, which is a solid plastic, we do not believe that people are at risk from using polystyrene products. The listing in the RoC is specific for styrene and is based on studies of workers exposed to high levels of styrene in the workplace.

    It is thought that styrene occurs in some foods at very low levels naturally, and if leaching of styrene into foods from polystyrene occurs, the levels of styrene remain very low.

    Measurements of styrene in foods packaged in polystyrene show that levels in food are still orders of magnitude lower than air levels in the workplace where styrene is used.

    The RoC listing of styrene was based on high levels of exposure such as that experienced by workers exposed to styrene in an industrial setting and it was not based on the very small amount of styrene that may possibly leach from a Styrofoam cup or plastic containers.

  • wagnert in atlanta||

    Further proof that absolutely nothing is beneath Bloomberg. Incidentally, does New York City still dump its garbage a few miles at sea?

  • JRS1001||

    I propose a ban on short rich Nazis with a napoleon complex from running for public office.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement