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New York City Mayor proposed plastic foam ban

February 18, 2013

In his final State of the City address, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a citywide ban on polystyrene foam food packaging – a substance commonly used by street vendors and takeout restaurants as food containers.

Comparing the environmentally destructive and health-hazardous material as “lead paint”, Mayor Bloomberg said in the excerpts from his speech released on 13 February 2013 that the city cannot only live without plastic foam, but also “live longer without it”.

According to the Mayor’s office, plastic foam makes up an estimated 20,000 tons of the city’s annual waste – each ton of plastic foam tacks on an additional $20 recycling costs as the non-biodegradable material has to be removed when the city processes its waste.

Before becoming law, the Mayor’s proposal would have to be drafted into legislation and get approval from the City Council. Similar bans have already been adopted in other U.S. cities including ICLEI Members cities Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

The proposed plastic foam ban is part of Mayor Bloomberg’s larger plan to raise the city’s overall recycling rate to 30% by 2017. Other initiatives include doubling the number of recycling bins on sidewalks, opening a new recycling plant in Brooklyn to process plastic items that were not previously recyclable, and a pilot food waste composting program on Staten Island.

Other recent sustainability actions by New York includes the city’s landmark sustainability plan, PlaNYC, which covers a $2.4 billion green infrastructure plan to use natural methods to capture rainwater and to avoid floods.

According to Bloomberg news, the city will also make its largest purchase of electric cars this year. Two sidewalk chargers will be installed in the Manhattan district to allow taxi drivers and the public to recharge their cars in less than 30 minutes.

For more information on what climate change impacts U.S. communities are experiencing and how local governments are responding, read the complete ICLEI USA factsheet.