Mayor Bloomberg Signs Legislation to Determine Recyclability of Expanded Polystyrene or EPS Foam

December 30, 2013

Remarks by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg at a Public Hearing on Local Laws

“The first of twenty-two bills before me today is Introductory Number 1060-A, sponsored in conjunction with our Administration by Council Members Fidler, James, Gentile, Brewer, King, Koslowitz, Lander, Levin, Vann, Dromm, Ferreras, Gonzalez, Mendez, Richards, Rivera, Van Bramer, Chin, Nelson, Garodnick, Gennaro, Rodriguez, Koo, Vallone, Koppell and Lappin. This legislation requires the Sanitation Commissioner to determine the recyclability of expanded polystyrene (commonly referred to as ‘EPS foam’) within the City’s existing infrastructure, leading to the potential ban of EPS foam material in food service establishments and retail stores beginning in 2015.

“During our Administration, the City has made aggressive efforts to designate as many items as possible as recyclable, with the goal of reducing our overall sanitation costs, sending less tonnage to landfills, and to be a leading example in environmental stewardship.

“Currently, the use of EPS foam in the City challenges our ability to meet these goals. EPS foam is a wasteful and environmentally harmful product that does not biodegrade and currently cannot be recycled. It contaminates the City’s metal, glass, and plastics recyclable stream and decreases the value of the City’s recyclables. In addition, the contamination of EPS foam in the food waste stream is a major hurdle in the City’s ability to conduct organic recycling at the household and business level. EPS foam is a major source of litter, where it often breaks up into small pieces, littering our streets, waterways, catch basins, and neighborhood sidewalks. EPS foam also costs the City money. The City must pay $1.8 million annually to have it landfilled where it can sit for more than five hundred years.

“Introductory Number 1060-A allows for the Sanitation Commissioner to determine whether foam can be recycled by January 1, 2015. If the Commissioner determines that foam is sortable and can be recycled in a way that is environmentally effective and economically feasible, then the Commissioner will adopt and implement rules designating EPS foam products as recyclable material and require the source separation of such expanded polystyrene for Department-managed recycling.

“If the Commissioner determines that EPS foam is not recyclable, then beginning July 1, 2015, no business may sell or offer for use a single service EPS foam product. This ban will not apply to prepackaged food that has been filled and sealed prior to receipt by the food service establishment or store, and will not apply to any EPS foam containers used to store raw food.

“The legislation includes a number of components that will assist businesses in the event EPS foam is banned. Non-profits and small businesses may apply for a hardship exemption in the event that alternatives to EPS foam products are more expensive and pose a financial hardship. In addition, a first warning rather than fine will be issued within the first year of a ban. The City will also provide outreach and education to food service establishments and stores about the ban, and provide assistance with identifying replacement material.

“I would like to thank Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty and Deputy Commissioner Ron Gonen, Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, and their staff for their work on this bill, along with Reggie Thomas from my Office of City Legislative Affairs. I would also like to thank Council Member Lew Fidler and his Counsel, Brad Reid, for their advocacy on this legislation, as well as Speaker Quinn and the City Council for approving this legislation.”

Contact:

Marc LaVorgna/Evelyn Erskine (212) 788-2958