Source: rollingrck/CC BY 2.0Source: rollingrck/CC BY 2.0Effective Jan. 1, single-use polystyrene foam food containers were banned in New York City restaurants and food vendors.

As part of the city’s New Year’s resolutions, single-use polystyrene foam containers, often used for restaurant takeout or at food carts, as well as foam cups, bowls, plates and packaging peanuts, are now prohibited.

The ban was approved in 2013, but was delayed by a restaurant industry lawsuit before a judge finalized the ban in June 2018. Restaurants and other businesses will be given a six-month grace period to comply with the ban before fines for violations are imposed July 1. Likewise, small businesses can apply to the city's department of small business services for hardship exemptions.

Often incorrectly called Styrofoam, a Dow Chemical product not used in the manufacture of disposable food containers, the polystyrene foam materials amount to an estimated 60 million pounds of waste each year in New York.

Polystyrene foam clogs landfills and its production feeds the petroleum industry that is responsible for destroying the planet, according to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Durable polystyrene is a major contributor to marine pollution debris. There is also concern about health risks to humans, as it could contaminate food placed in take-out containers. Additionally, the production of polystyrene foam may release chemical byproducts into the atmosphere. The material is recyclable, but few companies accept polystyrene products due to associated health and environmental concerns.

New York City is joining a number of other cities worldwide attempting to eliminate single-use plastic products, enacting bans on everything from plastic straws to cotton swabs.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com