Allan Gerlat, News Editor

September 24, 2015

3 Min Read
New York Supreme Court Overturns NYC Polystyrene Ban

The New York State Supreme Court has overturned the city’s expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) ban, calling the New York City Sanitation Commissioner’s decision “arbitrary and capricious.”

Justice Margaret Chan in the county of New York ruled Commissioner Kathryn Garcia’s conclusion that there is no sustainable market for post-consumer EPS did not address that position “when evidence contrary to her findings were clearly before her.” The city passed the law regarding single-serve EPS in January, and it took effect in July.

The city is considering an appeal. “We disagree with the ruling,” said Ishanee Parikh, spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a statement. “These products cause real environmental harm, and we need to be able to prevent nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from entering our landfills, streets and waterways. We are reviewing our options to keep the ban in effect.”

Dart Container Corp. has been one of the prime opponents of the law. It said in a statement that the ruling clears the way for the city to embrace a recycling program that would cover 100 percent of polystyrene products and generate new revenue for the city. 

“This decision is a victory for the environment and for New York City, which can now become a national leader in recycling by removing every piece of polystyrene from its waste stream–and making money in the process,” said former City Councilman Robert Jackson, who heads the Restaurant Action Alliance that was a part of the lawsuit. “The judge has ended the debate about polystyrene recycling by making clear it can be recycled and there is a market for it. Now it’s time for the city to capitalize on this development. ” 

In January the city decided to ban EPS foam items and packaging starting July 1. The Sanitation Department determined that EPS foam cannot be recycled. The law stated manufacturers and stores cannot sell or provide single-use foam items such as cups, plates, trays or clamshell containers in the city. The city also banned the sale of polystyrene loose-fill packaging such as packing peanuts.

“These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City,” the mayor said at the time. “We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less.”

It was one element of New York City’s aggressive stand toward waste reduction, recycling and sustainability. In April the city announced that it is aiming to reduce the amount of waste disposed of by 90 percent by 2030 and send zero waste to landfills by that point.

Mayor de Blasio presented his plan with the release of One New York, which calls for a sustainable and resilient city. Solid waste and environmental goals are a cornerstone of the plan.

The city plans to reduce waste by 90 percent from a 2005 baseline, according to the report.  It cited the recent decision to ban expanded polystyrene foam as one step toward that end.

The sustainability plan includes the expansion of New York City’s organics curbside collection and local drop-off site programs to serve all New Yorkers by the end of 2018. The city also hopes to implement single-stream recycling collection for metal, glass, plastic and paper products by 2020.

“Environmental and economic sustainability must go hand in hand–and OneNYC is the blueprint to ensure they do,” deBlasio said in a statement. “Today, we are laying out specific goals to make sure that as we build a stronger, more sustainable and more resilient city, we are also creating a more equitable one.”

About the Author(s)

Allan Gerlat

News Editor, Waste360

Allan Gerlat joined the Waste360 staff in September 2011 as news editor. He was the editor of Waste & Recycling News for the first 16 years of its history, and under his guidance the publication won 27 national and regional awards.

Before Waste & Recycling News, Allan worked at another Crain Communications publication, Rubber & Plastics News, which covers rubber product manufacturing. He began with the publication as associate editor and eventually became managing editor, a position he held for nine years.

Allan is a graduate of Ohio University, where he earned a BS in journalism. He is based in Sagamore Hills, in northeast Ohio.

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