Back in December of 2013, we applauded when the New York City Council voted unanimously to ban the use of polystyrene, commonly called Styrofoam (a misnomer, as Styrofoam technically refers to Dow's brand of extruded polystyrene used for insulation). This type of plastic is used to make disposable coffee cups, take-out containers and egg cartons. The council determined that the air-puffed plastic is un-recyclable, and generally the ban felt like a step in the right direction away from single-use containers which create mountains of garbage in cities all around the world.
Unsurprisingly, the plastics industry fought back, arguing that just because there are currently no polystyrene recycling facilities in New York City, that doesn’t mean the stuff can’t be recycled. In addition to launching a PR campaign (I personally received several press releases) about recycling polystyrene, they also took the city to court.
Now, New York state supreme court judge Margaret Chan has sided with the polystyrene people, arguing that the ban was implemented without fully considering recycling options. According to the industry, the city would save $400,000 per year if just 40 percent of this type of plastic got recycled.
But the ban, which found support under Bill de Blasio and former mayor Michael Bloomberg isn’t doomed just yet. The Guardian reports that the city is looking for ways to keep the ban in place, and continues to consider the brittle plastic an environmental problem.
Many other major cities in the United States have enforced bans on polystyrene, including Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Washington DC. New York is the largest city to implement this type of ban.