Is Now the Time For Bans Such as the Proposed One on Plastic Foam Products by NYC?

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is looking to ban foam plastic cups, but small business owners say it will hurt in a time they are still struggling from a depressed economy.

Whether it is large sodas or strict gun regulation, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is never slow about getting ahead of legislation that he thinks is best for his city. He is now looking to ban plastic-foam food packaging, something environmentalists have been calling on for years.

But is now the right time to make things any more difficult for businesses? 

According to The New York Times, the ban will include takeout boxes, cups and trays and that will force restaurants to restock. Public schools also would have to remove plastic-foam trays from their cafeterias. The move could reportedly save a waste stream of about 20,000 tons of plastic foam at $20 per ton in recycling costs.

But some small business owners are dreading what they call an “unfair burden” on small businesses, the New York Times reports. It is also likely to impact larger manufacturers too, such as Dow Chemicals. New York City is not the first city to consider such a ban. Others such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, have done it, but is now the right time to make it more difficult for businesses to recover from an already sluggish economy.

Do you think the government, local and otherwise, would better serve the people by slowing down on some of the regulations until the economy is a little more robust?

Michael Robinson February 17, 2013 at 02:07 PM
I would advise looking at the three cities you listed where they've already done it to see the results. This is a good way to determine the efficacy of policy.
Sharon Swanepoel February 17, 2013 at 04:25 PM
Michael, what particular metric would give us more of an insight? I checked the unemployment rates and there isn't any consistency there. In December 2012 the unemployment rates for the three cities were Seattle 6.7, San Francisco 7.3 and Los Angeles 10.3.
r patton February 17, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Before long, the moronic New York City Mayor will be banning people in NYC!
Michael k February 17, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Having to switch from using plastic foam containers to another type is going to impact employment? In an article on NJ.com (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/02/ban_on_plastic_foam_causes_con.html) a street vendor estimated that his costs would increase from less than $.09 per container using plastic foam to less than $.12 per container using aluminum. About a 3 cent increase. If businesses use this new policy to increase prices by a nickel they'll enjoy windfall profits.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 18, 2013 at 04:54 AM
Now if he would just ban himself from other states and the airwaves inclusive of all media forms...
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 18, 2013 at 04:57 AM
Are you aware of all the other mandated costs of business in NYC? This 3 cent delta is WAY too low!
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew February 18, 2013 at 04:58 AM
In response to main question - yes its time to take a bit of a breather on environmental regulations.
Michael k February 18, 2013 at 01:03 PM
@R - The main question was "is now the right time to make things any more difficult for businesses?" I don't know that any time is the right time to make things more difficult for businesses but the basic premise of this opinion piece is flawed. Banning the use of plastic foam containers may make things more inconvenient for businesses, but more difficult? Perhaps the author of this tripe is trying to make a point about being fed up with "the government" telling the little guy how to live his/her life or run his/her business and they see this as the latest example of further encroachment on liberty. But to paint it as a hindrance to businesses trying to recover from a sluggish economy is a flawed premise at best.
ToJo February 18, 2013 at 01:38 PM
These controversial programs Bloomberg are actually attempts to curtail the cost of government. Obese people use healthcare more often and Styrofoam fills up landfills faster than other materials. He sees it as an economic issue. I would absolutely support a national ban on Styrofoam packaging and non recyclable beverage containers. "In the name of Freedom" is all to often used to justify ignorant and lazy approaches to our supply chain. We defecate in our lunch box every day. If we do not change our attitude toward the planet, we will destroy it or it will kick us off. Our actions have consequences.
TOWG February 18, 2013 at 07:13 PM
The fact is, this would be a 33% increase in cost that would be mandated by the government. I have problems with that.
Dr. Bill February 18, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Polystyrene with the exception of meat packing trays can be recycled. Recycling can be a challenge but well worth it. I think its far better to recycle something like polystyrene rather than to replace it with a more environmentally friendly product. Recycling removes the tonnage from the landfills, replacing it with something else does not. You still have the replacement object in the trash stream. Yes the new product will eventually compost, but you still have the tonnage going into the landfills and the resulting byproducts of it breaking down... The more we can keep out of landfills completely is better.
Mr. B February 18, 2013 at 07:54 PM
EPS used in meat trays, cups, foam containers, etc. is difficult to recycle due to the presence of blowing agents that made it expand into a foam.
Good Grief Y'all February 18, 2013 at 08:31 PM
What might be more helpful beyond economics to health matters and environmental impact, would be for restaurants to stop super-sizing meals and portions. If they cut back the portions and gave patrons the choice of less food for less money, there wouldn't be as many take-out containers needed for "doggy bags". Leftovers shouldn't be wasted either, but they're not as good warmed over. The fast food places should use more paper products, less styrofoam. We have millions of eating joints but only one Mother Earth.
John Boudrot February 19, 2013 at 11:24 AM
He thinks he is King. He's scary
Racer X February 19, 2013 at 01:21 PM
GGY- Don't have a heart attack, but I am going to agree with you on two things in a row. The above point you just made is a darn good one. My wife and I split an appetizer, split an entree and then split dessert. We always leave the restaurant with full bellies, an empty plate and some extra money in our wallets. We always tip well so our servers never seem to mind. With 2/3s of America overweight and half of them obese, it's time we start understanding our gluttony.
Racer X February 19, 2013 at 01:37 PM
I think the "harmful to business" argument is a little weak. There is a much better argument from the environmental perspective. If Styrofoam is outlawed in NY City, and vendors switched, say, to paper products two things would happen that are a negative for the environment: 1) 20,000 tons of Stryo-foam would equal about 50,000 tons of paper/cardboard. 2) Last time I checked, paper was made from trees. How many trees does it take to make 50,000 tons of paper? It really would be cool to get rid of Styrofoam but at what cost to paper? I think the real reason Bloomberg doesn't want Styrofoam is because he can't dump it in the Atlantic with everything else because it floats.
Good Grief Y'all February 19, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Racer, I am an even-tempered person. I take most things in stride, so I am not alarmed at all. It's a common sense perspective that isn't political. What does surprise me is that you would admit to agreeing with anything I write. I appreciate your saying so. Overloading plates is a marketing ploy. Restaurants want you to come back, so they give the illusion you are getting a lot for your money and are less focused on the actual price. Some places are fine with the sharing, and it is usually more than enough for two to share. Some restaurants penalize this practice by adding a surcharge for sharing. More fair establishments offer half-size entres but they don't give that much of a price differential. It is not cheap-skate to share. It is healthier, more economical and may encourage more dining out if it is not frowned upon. Thanks. There's a great seafood restaurant on Tybee Island that serves such a large portion on one entree that, not only is it plenty for two - there's enough left for two to share for lunch the next day. Prices are reasonable, too. I don't know how they make a profit, but they keep a wait with reservations on weekends.
Good Grief Y'all February 19, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Tipping extra to the server to compensate for serving two people one dinner is the decent way to approach this. That's a good point. Sharing one entree probably also makes the service go faster, seating more folks in a shorter time, making up for less from each table of diners.
Dr. Bill February 20, 2013 at 01:05 AM
Racer X: "1) 20,000 tons of Stryo-foam would equal about 50,000 tons of paper/cardboard. 2) Last time I checked, paper was made from trees. How many trees does it take to make 50,000 tons of paper? " Bingo! I forgot to add to my previous post that (DOW)Dart Container recycles polystyrene. It would be far better to recycle than use other materials that still go to landfill! Its not as profitable as other recycling commodities but when you consider the cost in terms of savings in the tonnage in landfills and raping the forests for yet more material... its worth it. Here is a link to more info: http://www.dart.biz/web/environ.nsf/pages/drop-off.html
Good Grief Y'all February 20, 2013 at 01:42 PM
I love trees. As the condition of the planet deteriorates there won't be as many trees even if they're not used for more paper production. Whether we use more plastic or more paper, there will be an environmental impact. The health of the planet should be the top priority.


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