Polystyrene foam, commonly referred to as Styrofoam, is used in many single-use consumer products. In the United States, three million tons of polystyrene is produced each year, predominantly used to make food service items such as foam cups, cartons, and containers. As well as being extremely difficult to recycle, polystyrene is comprised of toxic substances including styrene, a likely human carcinogen, and benzene, a known human carcinogen.
This legislation would prohibit the use of disposable polystyrene foam food service containers by any person or entity that has a contract with an agency or municipality. Instead, this legislation would require the use of food service containers made from materials other than polystyrene foam, and also require food containers to be compostable or recyclable unless there is no compostable or recyclable alternative available at a price not more than fifteen percent higher.
Polystyrene foam bans have been successfully adopted in many municipalities statewide, as well as hundreds of localities nationwide. Just last year, the Albany County Legislature passed legislation to ban the use of polystyrene foam for disposable food service ware by all food establishments throughout Albany County while requiring the use of compostable or recyclable alternatives.
To address the issues of single-use plastics, a ban on polystyrene foam is critical. New York must find ways to decrease the plastic waste that is proving to be detrimental to our environmental and public health. Discouraging the use of polystyrene foam is a step in the right direction.
This legislation amends the environmental conservation law to prohibit the use of food service containers that contain polystyrene by contractors and lessees who deal with the state through state and municipal contracts. The Department of Environmental Conservation shall also conduct a study on the desirability, feasibility and environmental impact of a statewide prohibition on the use of disposable food service ware that contains polystyrene foam.