Did you know that the New York City ban on plastic-foam food containers, put into effect in July 2015, was just overturned? Like San Francisco's ban of the sale of single-use plastic water bottles on city property, New York's ban of these polystyrene containers, which break up into tiny pieces and end up in landfills and waterways, was a major victory for the environmental realm. The city has claimed that recycling these foam containers is "neither environmentally effective nor economically feasible."
However, the judge who just struck down the ban denied this claim and stated that there is a Michigan-based foam manufacturer, Dart Container Corporation, which has offered to pay for better-performing machines to clean and sort the foam containers after use and keep the majority of them out of landfills. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who put this ban into effect this summer, strongly disagrees with the ruling and is considering an appeal.
Because of the ban overturn, the city has suspended the fining of restaurants for using these foam containers until January of 2016, but many restaurants have already made the switch to more environmentally-responsible, recyclable paper-based food containers.
It is a widely-held belief by environmental experts that these foam containers cannot be properly recycled, nor is the new proposal for recycling the polystyrene containers economically feasible. "The product has inflicted extraordinary environmental harm and should not be in use," says former deputy mayor of operations Caswell F. Holloway, who led the administration's efforts on banning foam. "We are glad [de Blasio] is going to continue this fight."
Please allow me to editorialize for a moment-- this story out of New York has me thinking. And although my thoughts aren't anything new, I feel compelled to repeat what many environmentalists continue to say. Couldn't we all just implement our own personal ban of single-use containers?
Perhaps it's not realistic to ask people to NEVER get those "to-go" boxes at restaurants or to forgo take-out/delivery meals completely (the goal is not perfection, but rather progress), but when you think about how wasteful ANY type of single-use food container is, whether it's foam, plastic, or paper-based, it certainly makes sense to REDUCE the amount of take-out food you buy, right?
When you think of the environmental impact of these containers, it really doesn't make a lot of sense to use them, especially when there are alternatives to take-out food. Yes, cooking at home takes some planning and scheduling and with all of our busy lives-- kids needing to be shuttled to and from school and afterschool activities; jobs that require us to work long hours; fitting in those all-important daily tasks like exercising and keeping up the home-- it's hard to find the time to cook.
But when you think of the environmental nightmare that is the packaging that comes with take-out food, isn't it a motivator to want to cook more at home? Along with cooking at home being more environmentally-friendly, it's also healthier and more affordable, especially when you make enough to freeze and have for future meals (talk about a time and money-saver!).
Kudos to NYC Mayor de Blasio for banning those awful foam containers and shame on the judge who overturned the ruling. But whether the ban is in place or overturned, we as individuals can all make the personal choice to use fewer single-use containers in general, of any sort. If we all make these small, daily changes, we can be a part of the larger change that our environmental world needs so very much right now!