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National Restaurant Association - Potential New York City polystyrene foam ban could cost $100M a year

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Potential New York City polystyrene foam ban could cost $100M a year

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on polystyrene foam packaging could end up costing the city’s businesses, consumers and tax payers nearly $100 million a year and do little to reduce waste, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by MB Public Affairs on behalf of the American Chemistry Council, found that replacing polystyrene food and drink containers with the lowest-priced alternative containers would cost approximately $91.3 million per year. This level translates into an average cost increase of 94 percent.“

For every $1 now spent on plastic foam foodservice and drink containers, New York City consumers and businesses will have to spend at least $1.94 on the alternative replacements, effectively doubling the cost to businesses,” the ACC said in a prepared statement.

According to the report, restaurants and other small businesses located throughout the city’s five boroughs could experience increased costs of about $57 million if a polystyrene ban is enacted.

“This study shows that for a restaurant – especially a small, neighborhood business   mandating a switch to a higher-priced alternative for basic supplies can have a serious effect,” said Andrew Moesel, spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association. “These are businesses that are absorbing higher food and energy costs, and are under pressure from a struggling economy that leaves less money in people’s paychecks. It’s one more thing to add to the headwinds they are facing. As the process moves forward, we hope the City Council takes into consideration the substantial economic burden that this or any new piece of regulation would have.”

In addition to the economic impact, the study further found that a ban would not reduce solid waste in New York City, and could actually produce unintended consequences that would harm the environment. It said that polystyrene foam, despite claims to the contrary, can and is recycled while many common alternatives to it are not recycled at all. In California, for example, polystyrene foam is being recycled in over 65 communities, which represents approximately 20 percent of the state. Alternative materials, the report claimed, are often heavier and larger in volume, use more energy for production and transport and take up more room in landfills.

“Legislative bans that do not consider the full life cycle impacts of a product and its alternatives have the potential to create unforeseen impacts on the ability to pursue other environmental goals in other areas,” the report said.

 “A ban on polystyrene foam would have serious economic impacts to the city and to state businesses,” the report stated. “It would require businesses and consumers to switch to higher cost alternatives that are in many cases inferior to polystyrene products. Most importantly, it would have little to no impact on waste reduction or other environmental concerns.”

Lynn Dyer, president of the Foodservice Packaging Institute, noted that any government intervention that limits packaging options in the marketplace is not good public policy.

“Businesses should be allowed to select packaging based on its own merits of product performance, suitability, price competitiveness and impact on the environment,” she said. “A free marketplace,” she added, “helps to keep costs down and drive innovation. My hope is that the city will refocus its efforts on increasing recovery of all foodservice packaging instead of decreasing packaging options for foodservice operators.”

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