Compromise in Foam Ban Allows for New Recycling Opportunities


While outgoing NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration gathered enough votes to pass an amendment that would have banned local restaurants and businesses from using polystyrene foam products, a provision within the law put a stop to the ban altogether.  New York City Council Members allowed a few organizations to develop a foam recycling program as an alternative to banning foam. Polystyrene foam, which is often mistakenly referred to as Styrofoam®, a registered trademark of the Dow Chemical Company, is used in many take-away containers that most businesses and consumers prefer because of its convenience and ability to keep foods hot or cold.

Michigan-based Dart Container Corporation will lead the way in developing a program to eliminate foam waste from New York area landfills – the original goal of the foam ban – and also create new economic opportunities for the city. By working directly with New York City’s recycling contractor, Sims Municipal Recycling, Dart will develop a plan to collect foam waste from city residents and businesses, have the product scrubbed clean of residue, and then recycle the readied material so that manufacturers are able to use it in the production of brand new consumer goods such as picture frames. With this program, Dart would purchase the discarded foam from New York City for $160 per ton in order to process it correctly; this purchase creates the opportunity for economic growth from a city budget deficit.

Dart will work with the city council towards a deadline of January 1, 2015. The company will have until that date to prove that with its program, foam products can be recycled without a “significant amount” heading to area landfills or incinerators. Currently, roughly 23,000 tons of foam waste is discarded in New York City each year; however, Dart is confident in its ability to provide an alternative service.  Indicating that as long as incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio gives the recycling program the opportunity to succeed, Michael Westerfield, Dart's director of recycling programs, states, "If we get a fair shot and foam is treated just like any other recyclable material, then we'll be fine." Once the company is able to prove that its plan is a viable option for the city from both an economic and environmental perspective, the foam ban could be avoided.