The National Restaurant Association responded to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s call for a ban on “Styrofoam,” saying it wants to work with the city, but has concerns on how the city would achieve the goal.
“The National Restaurant Association supports increased use of sustainable packaging and would appreciate the opportunity to work with the city on the mayor’s latest proposal regarding foodservice packaging and restaurants, developing a plan that is feasible for the industry to implement and cost effective for operators and consumers,” said Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs.
Mayor Bloomberg proposed the ban on Styrofoam, more accurately known as polystyrene, during his Feb. 14 State of the City address. It is used by many because of its thermal insulation, which helps keep food hot or cold, and its cost. Environmentalists have said it takes longer to biodegrade in the trash, but there are few cost-effective alternatives that restaurateurs can use in its place.
“It is important to note that in some cases, a suitable supply of alternatives to polystyrene foam packaging does not exist, or is prohibitively expensive to obtain,” DeFife said. “This could create a great burden for restaurants, more than 90 percent of which are small businesses, if those concerns are not addressed as the city moves forward. In addition, some alternatives have their own environmental impacts due to the energy and resources required to make them, and, in other cases because of the lack of proper recycling or composting infrastructure in place. This is an area where incentives may work better than prohibitions, and there are also energy production alternatives that could be considered.”
DeFife further indicated the Association “would like to commend the mayor on his attention to the food waste issue. We have been working with our members and industry partners on this area as well, and there is great potential to reduce landfill volume and increase the composting of organics,” he said. “Again, there is significant potential in this area, but there are also food safety and other regulatory issues differentiating the residential and the commercial markets that must be considered. Still, we would like to work with the city on this issue as well.”
The mayor said he intends to ratchet up New York City’s sustainability goals, including doubling its recycling rate to 30 percent by 2017.
Polystyrene currently is banned in parts of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Long Island, N.Y., Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington State.