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N.Y. mayor seeks ban on plastic foam containers

Story highlights

  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to ban the use of plastic foam containers
  • Mayor: "Don't worry, the doggy bag and the coffee cup will survive just fine"
  • It is one of many health or environmental initiatives Bloomberg has pursued

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, known in New York City for his tough regulations on everything from large sodas to smoking in Central Park, proposed a new target during his final State of the City speech Thursday: plastic foam containers.

"Styrofoam increases the cost of recycling by as much as $20 per ton because it has to be removed," the mayor said. "Something we know is environmentally destructive, that is costing taxpayers money, and that is easily replaceable, I think, is something we can do without."

Specifically, the ban will target certain polystyrene foam products, not necessarily Styrofoam, a trademarked product of Dow Chemical Co. used in foam insulation and construction products.

"With Speaker (Christine) Quinn and the City Council, we'll work to adopt a law banning Styrofoam food packaging from our stores and restaurants," Bloomberg added. "And don't worry, the doggy bag and the coffee cup will survive just fine."

It was not immediately clear how the majority of businesses that use polystyrene foam products would react to a ban.

One early response from the Dunkin' Donuts chain was not positive.

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    Instead of an outright ban, it said in a written statement, the company has "reviewed or tested nearly every type of single-use hot cup on the market, but a viable alternative does not yet exist. This is a process, and we will continue to test and try new things until we find a cup that keeps drinks hot, hands cool and is better for the planet.

    "A polystyrene ban will not eliminate waste or increase recycling; it will simply replace one type of trash with another," it said. Until a solution is found, Dunkin' Donuts has cut the weight of its foam and plastic cups and "offered our franchisees a reusable mug program."

    Plastic foam product limitations have already been ordered in several other cities, including Seattle, Washington, and Brookline, Massachusetts.

    Throughout his tenure, Bloomberg has garnered a reputation for bold and sometimes controversial initiatives. Despite public outcry, he pushed to regulate trans fat in food preparation in 2007, signed into law a ban on smoking in most public spaces in 2011, and last March prohibited sugary drinks in containers larger than 16 ounces in certain venues.

    The mayor has also advocated for, and sometimes financially supported, same-sex marriage, gun control, and several new public health proposals.

    "Now we are working on obesity and hopefully the courts won't stop us," Bloomberg said of his health policy efforts during a January press conference. "These small public health things that we do really make a difference in people's lives."