Judge Overturns NYC Ban On Plastic Foam Containers


A state judge has overturned New York City’s ban on plastic foam containers, finding the nearly 30,000 tons of dirty meat trays and to-go cups now sent to landfills can be recycled in a cost-effective way, according to a decision made public Tuesday.

The ban went into effect July 1 after lawmakers voted in 2013 to approve it unless a yearlong inquiry found the foam could be effectively recycled. An industry group of manufacturers, recyclers and restaurant-owners then sued, arguing that the ban was based on politics, not policy, and that recycling was feasible.

The environmental initiative was spearheaded by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and supported by current Mayor Bill de Blasio.

But state Supreme Court Judge Margaret Chan ruled that Department of Sanitation Commissioner Katheryn Garcia didn’t properly take into account industry estimates of the market and recycling opportunities generated during the yearlong review period when she decided that plastic foam couldn’t be recycled economically and in an environmentally friendly way.

Garcia didn’t “clearly state the basis of her conclusions when the evidence contrary to her findings were clearly before her,” Chan wrote, noting industry estimates that 21 companies would buy used containers from the city. She also noted the city would save $400,000 annually if 40 percent of its wasted plastic foam wasn’t sent to landfills, though as much as 75 percent could be recycled following machinery improvements.

The takeout containers popular with street vendors for keeping food warm are actually made from a material called expanded polystyrene foam. Although commonly referred to as Styrofoam, that Dow Chemical Co. brand isn’t used as a food container, the company has said.

Mayoral spokeswoman Ishanee Parikh said de Blasio administration officials disagreed with the ruling and were reviewing options to keep the ban in place.